HANDEL:  Samson
Jan Peerce, tenor/Phyllis Curtin, soprano/others/Utah Symphony  Chorus & Orch/Maurice Abravanel, cond.

VANGUARD CLASSICS SVC 131/2  (2 CDs)  (M) (ADD)  TT:  2:23:40' 

Awake the trumpet's lofty sound!  No, not in praise of Dagon, but to salute Vanguard Classics for reissuing this 1962 recording of  Handel's oratorio Samson featuring two distinguished soloists and the Utah forces under Maurice Abravanel's convincing guidance.  And what soloists!  Opera superstar Jan Peerce and Phyllis Curtin, long a standout on the concert stage.

What separates this Samson from others is the grandiose, romantic performance that is contrary to today's widely accepted controlled clarity.  Or, to press the point even further, Abravanel's Samson is an antidote to many of the later anemic, passionless interpretations.  Admittedly, purists could counter with the argument that, when recreating the period performance style of Handel's time, ornamentation and line are the driving forces.  True.  Still, this Samson proves that Handel can be both heroic and technically sound.  Here are a few examples to illustrate the point.  Peerce's operatic "Why does the God of Israel sleep?" evokes a necessary urgency.  And  Curtin's "Let the bright Seraphim" (added by Handel along with the final chorus, "Let their celestial concerts all unite" a year after the 1741 premiere) becomes a glorious invocation. A MUST for Handel fans of all persuasions.

K.S.(Feb. 2000)