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Space here does not allow for detail on the complex history of Handel’s allegorical moral oratorio. Suffice to say that this is the 1757 English version with the additional numbers the composer added for a further performance in 1758. Given that in two cases we hear arias for the same character clearly intended as alternatives performed alongside each other, the version given, which make the performance some 30 minutes longer than Denys Darlow’s 1982 Hyperion recording, is not entirely convincing.

Nor is it just the extra music that is responsible for the timing, since many of Neville-Towle’s tempos in andantes and largos are to my mind too slow, at times painfully so. Otherwise his direction tends to be neat, but staid, at its best in the vibrantly sung choruses. The two that start Act 2 go especially well. The solo team will doubtless go down well enough with mainstream critics, but this being an early music magazine I’m duty bound to report that excessive vibrato is a problem, especially with Ed Lyons’ Pleasure, and that the acoustic as recorded allows the upper register of Sophie Bevan’s Beauty to spread alarmingly at times. Ornaments (where there are any) are too often imprecisely articulated, with trills as rare as solar eclipses. Disappointing. Stick with the Darlow if you already have it.

Brian Robins Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2015 - ©Rhinegold Publishing