Handel: Theodora Oratorio (Naxos: 8.572700-02)
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Set in a time of ancient Rome's persecution of the Christians, Handel's late masterpiece Theodora tells of the tragic martyrdom of the heroine and her lover Didymus. The challenging nature of the libretto with its religious conflict, cruelty, self-sacrifice and brothel scene was discomforting for contemporary audiences, and despite Handel's magnificent music the oratorio was his least successful. This is part of a series of Handel oratorios from Martini and Junge Kantorei. Joachim Carlos Martini's series of Handel's oratorios has gained considerable critical acclaim and a sizeable following, with 'first rate' recommendations from publications such as the Penguin Guide (on Tobit, 8.570113-14). Controversial in its time and relatively neglected since, if anything the themes of Theodora resonate more today. Handel's masterly score is given a tremendous performance here, with a recording consistent with the extremely high standards of the rest of the series.
In 1968, with Fritz Eitel, the youth pastor of the Evangelical Church of Hesse and Nassau, Joachim Carlos Martini founded the Junge Kantorei, to the direction of which he has for some years chiefly devoted himself. At the same time he conducts the Frankfurt Baroque Orchestra, established together with friends. Both organisations have concentrated attention on the oratorios of Handel, with comprehensive performances of this repertoire.