Handel: God Rot Tunbridge Wells - The Life Of Georg Frederic Handel CD (TPCD114)


Taken from the soundtrack of the film God Rot Tunbridge Wells, this unforgettable collection of Handel’s ‘hits’ was rightly praised at the time for making Handel sound, well, like Handel: full of life and fury, and not the usual syrupy stodge served up by massed choirs of thousands.

Conducted by the great Handelian Sir Charles Mackerras, his fiery cast – Emma Kirkby, James Bowman, Elizabeth Harwood, John Shirley-Quirk, Simon Preston, Anthony Rolfe-Johnson, Valerie Masterson, Andrei Gavrilov, Simon Preston and the Westminster Abbey Choir and the indefatigable English Chamber Orchestra – blaze their way through some of Handel’s most famous music.

Mackerras had insisted on hearing the Royal Fireworks Music (for instance) as it had been written – for a veritable battery of wind and brass instruments, not to mention twenty side-drums – but how on earth were we going to assemble that number of period-looking instruments to film? Easy, said the cameraman: use mirrors. And so we did. No-one noticed, nor that the ‘harpsichord’ on which the deaf and almost blind Handel doodles from time to time is actually a grand piano painted by Burne-Jones in 1890, almost 150 years after Handel had died. (Ironically, the one person who did spot this was Andrew Lloyd-Webber, who then tried to buy the piano).

Mackerras adored the film and for a time went round slightly misquoting one of Handel’s speeches from the film. Handel/Osborne/Trevor Howard says, with appropriate insouciance: ''What have I done for the Georges of England?!'' Mackerras said: ''What have I done for the Handels of England?'' Rescued them, great Sir. Rescued them.

Tracks: 7: The Messiah �I Know that My Redeemer Liveth� (Elizabeth Harwood) 6:37 6: The Royal Fireworks (Minuet) 2:42 5: Xerses: �Ombra mai f� - Never was the shadow� (James Bowman) 3:29 4: Israel in Egypt: �He Gave Them Hailstones� (Chorus) 2:05 3: Water Music (Air) 1:58 2: �Zadok the Priest� (Chorus) 4:50 1: The Royal Fireworks (Overture) 3:14 9: The Messiah: �But who may Abide� (Emma Kirkby & The Academy of Ancient Music) 4:21 10: Water Music (Bour�e) 1:56 11: The Messiah: �For unto us a Child is born� (Chorus) 4:16 12: Judas Maccabeus: �See the Conquering Hero Comes� (Judith Howarth & Lynn Anderson) 2:30 14: Rinaldo: �Cara Sposa - My beloved� (Andrew Dalton) 4:03 15: Solomon: �Queen of Sheba� 3:00 16: Acis & Galatea: �Oh HappyWe� (Valerie Masterson & Anthony Rolfe-Johnson) 2:03 17: Passacaglia from Suite No 7 (Andrei Gavrilov) 4:05 18: The Messiah: �Hallelujah Chorus� 2:44