HANDEL Solomon McCreesh 4596882

The first complete recording of a masterly oratorio with an inspired cast - vocally and dramatically compelling. The orchestral playing is as fine as Gardiner's, the choral singing even better.

. . . Susan Gritton, the Queen of Sheba on Paul McCreesh's 1998 recording, has an apt hint of dusk in her tone; and her hypnotic singing of her farewell aria is one of the highpoints of the whole performance. In this, the first complete "Salomon" on disc, McCreesh vindicates the inclusion of such numbers as Zadok's picturesque "See the tall palm" (nimbly sung by Paul Agnew), the Queen of Sheba's gavotte-like opening aria, and "The name of the wicked"; which rather than being "the work of a tired brain" (Winton Dean) emerges, delightfully, as an insouciant, even mischievous, "jeu d'esprit".

. . . Scholl becomes the central focus by his beauty of voice, calm authority, charm and intelligent musicianship. Inger Dam-Jensen, as Solomon's queen, sounds suitably ecstatic in the florid "Blessed the day" and amorous in "With thee th'unsheltered moor", and her duet with Solomon flows with easy grace. To Susan Gritton falls the sublime "Will the sun forget to streak", with its wonderful unison oboe-and-flute obbligato. As the high priest Zadok, Paul Agnew shines in the ornate "See the tall palm" . . . the effect of the performance as a whole is deeply impressive, with such things as "Will the sun", the grave interlude to "With pious heart" and the elegiac chorus "Draw the tear from hopeless love" haunting the listener's mind.