Handel Coronation Anthems Get the Royal Treatment

Harmonia Mundi’s timing is much better than mine. They released this recording to coincide with the coronation of King Charles III. This review appears way after that event. (Sorry, just working my way through the pile.)

Fortunately, this release isn’t dependent on that event. The centerpiece of the album is music from George II’s coronation. But it features other royal music as well. 

Included is William Croft’s “The Lord is a sun and a shield” written for George I’s coronation in 1714. A 1674 chaconne from John Blow provides a welcome break from the grandeur. 

Handel’s “An Occasional Oratorio” opens the album. This was a patriotic work commissioned in 1745. George II’s goal was to renew the nation’s resolve against the threat of the Jacobeans. Critics at the time didn’t think much of the work, but it’s classic Handel (or should I say royal Handel). 

From George II’s coronation, maestro Justin Doyle selected four works by Handel. “Zadok the Priest,” sung after the anointing, is one of his biggest hits. It’s been a staple of British coronations since, and a popular choral work beside. 

“Let thy hand be strengthened” was heard during the enthronement. “The King shall rejoice” marked the recognition of the new sovereign by his subjects. And “My heart is inditing” celebrates the coronation of the queen. 

The RIAS Kammerchor Berlin performs with a clean, clear sound. The ensemble sound is full, yet it’s easy to hear individual lines. The Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin is ably directed by Justin Doyle. These pieces need a certain gravitas. But at the same time, they should sound joyous and even excited. 

Doyle delivers on those emotions. The music sounds expansive without being ponderous. The actual number of musicians is modest (26). But they put out a strong, robust sound that belies their number. This is Handel at his most regal. And these performances underline that. 

George Frideric Handel: Coronation Anthems
Additional music by John Blow and William Croft
RIAS Kammerchor Berlin
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin; Justin Doyle, conductor
Harmonia Mundi HMM902708

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