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Arne: Alfred/McGegan

ClassicsToday

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Thomas Arne is best known to most listeners for his charming settings of Shakespeare–songs like “Blow, blow, thou Winter Wind” and “Where the Bee Sucks”. But he is also justly famous for a tune that epitomizes England and its heroic spirit: “Rule Brittania”. That noble number is the final piece from Alfred, a masque with libretto by David Mallet and James Thomson. This new CD reveals that this work has a lot more to offer than its closing chorus. The music ranges from such simple pastoral songs as “If those who live in shepherd’s bow’r”, to florid, operatic aria show-stoppers like “Vengeance, O come inspire me”, the latter performed with thrilling vigor and accuracy by countertenor David Daniels. In listening to this music, Handel comes to mind quite often, but so does John Gay and his Beggar’s Opera. Regardless of the fluctuating style at any particular moment in the piece, we continually marvel at the composer’s consistently skillful orchestration. The use of horns in arias so different as “The Shepherd’s plain life” and “Vengeance, O come inspire me”, the plaintive flute in “Sweet Valley Say Where”, and the blazing Baroque trumpets in “Rule Britannia” are all strokes of genius. Nicholas McGegan secures polished and spirited performances from his soloists, chorus, and orchestra, and the sound is close to ideal. [4/16/2000]



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: this one

THOMAS AUGUSTINE ARNE - Alfred

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