Dunedin Consort

Handel: Ode for St Cecilia’s Day


ALONGSIDE the larger project that is Handel’s Samson, which conductor John Butt and his team began at Krakow’s Misteria Paschalia this Eastertide and performed at the Edinburgh Festival in August, Glasgow University’s Professor of Music also took advantage of his guest directorship of the Polish event to polish off this album of Handel’s composition for November 22 1739, setting poet John Dryden’s explanation of why music is central to our understanding of life, the universe and everything.

It is a real festival cast too, with the solo parts sung by Ian Bostridge and Carolyn Sampson, a 30 piece edition of the instrumental ensemble, led by Cecilia Bernardini, and the eight Dunedin choristers joined by the Polish Radio Choir, newly under the direction by Maria Piotrowska-Bogalecka. The contribution of the local talent is essential to the quality of the album, which is likely to be remarked more for the UK-based musicians. Their more common pursuit is new music (they were recent guests at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival), but they prove themselves adept at both the period and the English language. And while there is some variation in the recording of the soloists – seemingly close-miked at points but not elsewhere – their sound is crucially consistent.

The work packs a powerful punch in these hands, and nowhere more so than when Bostridge combines with the chorus in the aria hymning “the double, double, double beat/Of the thund’ring drum”.