Handel: Semele
Jennifer Vyvyan; Anthony Lewis
Label
Decca
Catalogue No.
4825055
Barcode
00028948250554
Format
2-CD
About

A pioneering Handel recording of the 1950s in a new digital remastering, released on Decca CD for the first time.

The scholar and conductor, Anthony Lewis, was one of the early luminaries of the L’Oiseau Lyre label which became, over time, the early-music imprint of Decca. Drawing on his experience of conducting and staging Baroque opera both at the Barber Institute in Birmingham and with the English Opera Group in London, he made recordings which have become milestones in the discography of Purcell and Handel.

The Eloquence release of Lewis directing Purcell’s masque ‘The Fairy Queen’ (482 7449) in 1957, was given an Editor’s Choice in Gramophone (December 2017) where it was welcomed as ‘a long overdue reissue’: ‘the first time his ground-breaking recording has been available in modern formats … The shifting moods of comedy, tragedy, charm and sense of spectacle are transparent throughout Lewis’s congenial performance.’

The same qualities infuse ‘Semele’. The cast is led by one of Britten’s favourite singers and a company member of the English Opera Group, Jennifer Vyvyan whose pellucid soprano and exemplary technique were celebrated in 2017 by a series of Eloquence reissues including ‘Songs of England’ (482 5045), ‘Mr. Bach at Vauxhall Gardens’ (482 5387) and scenes and arias by Haydn and Mozart (482 5049).

Listeners who have grown up with period-instrument recordings may find themselves surprised and, like Gramophone’s first reviewer, ‘delighted’ by the sure sense of Handelian style exhibited by both singers and players, guided as they are by the sure and lively hand of Lewis. Ultimately, though, this is Vyvyan’s recording, from the haunting unease she brings to her opening ‘O Jove, in pity teach me’ with its wide, dissonant leaps, to Semele’s sublime death scene, to which Vyvyan brings that directness and emotional truth which was a hallmark of all that she sang.

TRACK LISTING / ARTISTS

GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL
Semele, HWV 58
(Edited by Julian Herbage)

Jupiter, William Herbert
Cadmus, George Prangnell
Semele, Jennifer Vyvyan
Athamas, John Whitworth
Ino, Helen Watts
Somnus, George James
Apollo, Robert Ellis
Juno, Anna Pollak
Iris, Brenda Griffith

Chorus of priests, augurs, loves, zephyrs, nymphs, swains and attendants
Saint Anthony Singers
New Symphony Orchestra of London
Thurston Dart, harpsichord continuo
Anthony Lewis

FIRST CD RELEASE ON DECCA

Track previews
Semele, HWV 58, Act 3: Oh, terror and astonishment
Semele, HWV 58, Act 2: Overture
Semele, HWV 58, Act 2: Where'er you walk
Semele, HWV 58, Act 2: Dear Sister
Semele, HWV 58, Act 2: But hark! The Heavenly Sphere
Semele, HWV 58, Act 2: Prepare then, ye immortal choir
Semele, HWV 58, Act 1: Cease your vows
Semele, HWV 58, Act 1: Ah, wretched Prince
Semele, HWV 58, Act 1: See! Jove's priests
Semele, HWV 58, Act 1: Hail Cadmus!
Semele, HWV 58, Act 1: Endless pleasure.
Semele, HWV 58, Act 2: Awake, Saturnia
Semele, HWV 58, Act 2: Now Love that everlasting boy invites
Semele, HWV 58, Act 2: Hence, Iris, hence away
Semele, HWV 58, Act 2: Oh sleep, why dost thou leave me?
Semele, HWV 58, Act 2: Let me not another moment
Semele, HWV 58, Act 1: Overture
Semele, HWV 58, Act 1: Behold! auspicious flashes arise
Semele, HWV 58, Act 1: Daughter, obey
Semele, HWV 58, Act 1: Ah! me! - O Jove!
Semele, HWV 58, Act 1: See she blushing turns her eyes
Semele, HWV 58, Act 1: Why dost thou untimely grieve?
Semele, HWV 58, Act 1: Avert these omens
Semele, HWV 58, Act 2: By my command
Semele, HWV 58, Act 2: Too well I read her meaning
Semele, HWV 58, Act 3: Sinfonia: Apollo come
Semele, HWV 58, Act 3: Ah me, too late I now repent
Semele, HWV 58, Act 3: Happy shall we be
Semele, HWV 58, Act 3: Thus let my thanks be pay'd
Semele, HWV 58, Act 3: Rich odours fill the fragrant air
Semele, HWV 58, Act 3: Come to my arms
Semele, HWV 58, Act 3: I ever am granting
Semele, HWV 58, Act 3: Speak what you desire
Semele, HWV 58, Act 3: Ah, take heed
Semele, HWV 58, Act 3: No., no, I'll take no less
Semele, HWV 58, Act 3: Ah, whither is she gone?
Semele, HWV 58, Act 2: Bless the glad earth
Semele, HWV 58, Act 2: Ah me! why sighs my Semele!
Semele, HWV 58, Act 3: Overture
Semele, HWV 58, Act 3: Somnus, awake
Semele, HWV 58, Act 3: Leave me, loathsome light
Semele, HWV 58, Act 3: Dull God
Semele, HWV 58, Act 3: More sweet is that name
Semele, HWV 58, Act 3: My will obey
Semele, HWV 58, Act 3: Thus shap'd like Ino
Semele, HWV 58, Act 3: Myself I shall adore
Semele, HWV 58, Act 2: Lay your doubts and fears aside
Semele, HWV 58, Act 2: With fond desiring
Semele, HWV 58, Act 1: Again auspicious flashes rise
Recording information

Recording: London, UK, 1956
Remastering Engineer: Ben Wiseman
Original L’Oiseau-Lyre Release: OL 50098–100

Reviews

‘Miss Vyvyan […] warms up and it must be said that she negotiates the florid passages of the mirror aria [‘Myself I shall adore’] with almost uncanny lack of labour, which sounds very nice. Her tone is as limpid and the line as steady as a “wonderboy” cathedral treble and all in all her performance grows in stature as it proceeds and in human warmth too.’ Gramophone

‘Competent singing well stylized without importunity (and in places transcending competence), a direction in general spirited, and a union of effort in a lofty cause create a feeling of authority not to be questioned.’ High Fidelity