The church of St Lawrence, Little Stanmore, with its Baroque interior, is all that survives of the estate built by James Brydges, the Duke of Chandos, for whom Handel worked from 1717 to 1718. It was apt, then, that the London Handel Festival should venture there for this concert featuring two of the eleven eponymous Anthems which the composer wrote for that very venue.
These one-to-a-part performances further achieved a note of authenticity by using forces on a similar scale to those which would have been used originally in the average-sized church with its box pews.
The resulting ensemble work, directed by Adrian Butterfield, was well integrated in the more fully scored passages of the two ebullient Anthems here, with the vocal soloists coming together as the chorus as necessary; but they also offered an exemplary range of colour in their solo numbers. Where Camilla Harris was attractively fresh-voiced and tender, Hugo Herman-Wilson at the lowest end of the musical spectrum was also lean-toned and lyrical. Of the two tenors (there being no altos available when Handel wrote these Anthems) Matthew Keighley, taking the more highly-pitched music, sang with a characterful, broad-vowelled fervour reminiscent of Charles Daniels, whilst Michael Bell was more vehement for each of his arias. The London Handel Orchestra provided support that was both vivid and intimate, if at times a touch scrappy.
Before each Anthem came a Trio-Sonata from Handel’s Opus 5 set, both really a potpourri of movements adapted from pre-existing works, but no less rewarding for that. With Butterfield taking the lead as first violin, the one in F was fairly subdued and dry in tone, despite its major key, though with bright, yearning suspensions for its Corellian third movement Adagio. The G-minor received a bracing start, with somewhat scratchy counterpoint in the two faster fugal movements, and the chamber organ all the time gurgling away cheerfully. These Sonatas complemented the lively instrumental introductions to the two Anthems, yielding a rich feast of music.