Charles Humphries

Charles Humphries
Altus, Countertenor

Charles Humphries studied at the Royal Academy of Music with Charles Brett, Michael Chance and James Bowman, and continues his studies with Paul Farrington. He appears regularly as a soloist, not only alongside the recognized baroque ensembles of Britain, but also in his own right throughout the UK and Europe. These appearances include venues such as the Barbican Hall, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Wigmore Hall, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels as well as the cities of Copenhagen, Oslo, Prague and Warsaw. Conductors that he has worked for as a soloist include Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Richard Hickox, Robert King, Paul McCreesh, Nicholas McGegan and James O'Donnell. Operatic engagements have included Delfa Giasone (Cavalli) at the Megaron, Athens, the title-role in Pompeo Magno (Cavalli) at the Varazdin Festival of Baroque Music, Croatia, Lichas Hercules at the Hans-Otto Theater, Potsdam, the title-role in Lucio Silla at the Handel Festival, Karlsruhe, the title-role in Tamerlano for the Britten-Pears School and The Sorceress Dido and Aeneas for the King's Consort. Recent concert highlights have included the Chichester Psalms with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Hamor Jephtha at the Lufthansa Baroque Festival, televised performances of Judas Maccabaeus in Slovenia, Messiah with the Ulster Orchestra under Nicholas Kraemer, Monteverdi Vespers 1610 at the BBC Proms, Pergolesi Stabat Mater with the Northern Chamber Orchestra and a recital at the Halle Festival with Trevor Pinnock. Charles Humphries recently sang Tolomeo Giulio Cesare for the Norwegian National Opera. His recordings include Jephtha and Judas Maccabaeus (K&K Verlagsanstalt), Messiah (Capriccio) and Vivaldi Cantatas (ASV).
G. Fr. Handel · Judas MaccabaeusG. Fr. Handel · Judas Maccabaeus
George Frideric Handel
JUDAS MACCABAEUS
The English Oratorio HWV 63, performed according to the traditions of the time
by Sinéad Pratschke (Soprano), Catherine King (Mezzo-Soprano),
Charles Humphries (Countertenor), Mark Le Brocq (Tenor),
Christopher Purves (Bass), Musica Florea Prague,
and the Maulbronn Chamber Choir (Maulbronner Kammerchor)
Conductor: Jürgen Budday
A concert recording from the church of the German
UNESCO World Heritage Site Maulbronn Monastery
HD Recording · DDD · Double Album · c. 150 Minutes
2 CD
EUR 33,00SpotifyDeezerApple MusicTIDALiTunes MasteredFor...Qobuz HDeClassicalPresto Classical HDReview

This is a drum beat...

The technical sounding, outstandingly successful recording supplies the discography of the work with an interesting and worth listening to variant on the recordings by Harnoncourt, Gardiner, Marriner and Creed...

Dr. Karl-Georg Berg, DIE RHEINPFALZ

Review

Oratorio in three movements, performed in a historical setting

G.F.Handel's oratorio in three movements, Judas Maccabaeus, is performed in English in a historical setting by Sinéad Pratschke, Catherine King, Charles Humphries, Mark LeBrocq, Christopher Purves, Maulbronner Kammerchor and Musica Florea Prag. Juergen Budday conducts this concert recording from the convent church in Maulbronn.

New Classics UK

Review

Excellent recording

This is an excellent recording of one of Handel's best and most popular oratorios, and is highly recommended...

Classical Music UK & The British Music Society

Review

A surprising, wonderful, buoyant HIP Judas Maccabaeus with an outstanding Sound

I actually received this recording by mistake, but this live performance of Handel's oratorio is absolutely excellent, a refreshing joy to listen to and to return to. For a long time my favorite Maccabaeus has been the Mackerras version on Archiv, with Janet Baker. This recording, conducted by Jurgen Budday, is an Historically Informed Performance, which means they used original instruments and techniques (less string vibrato, smaller orchestra sections with more transparent sound, men using falsetto in place of women in some parts, for example). I will compare the merits of these two. This Budday HIP performance has gotten under my skin for several reasons: the conducting is exciting and very tasteful; the DDD sound is outstanding; the soloists are excellent, fresh, and stylistically intelligent; the HIP orchestra is tight and accompanies the singing deftly! I had never even heard of Jurgen Budday before.
Mackerras is excellent too, so I am not abandoning that recording any time soon; that recording is ADD, on modern instruments, and not all the soloists sound as fresh or as idiomatic as they do on this Budday recording - which really opened my ears.
To begin with Budday's tempi are buoyant - not simply fast, but well sprung. There is an energy which I think comes in part from it being a live performance. Budday's performance is about 20 minutes shorter than Mackerras' and is thus on 2 disks instead of 3. Mackerras is also a lively conductor and knows his way around Handel; in many ways his performance is a revelation, he is very sensitive in the solo accompaniment, and there is never any feeling of dragging. It must be said that both conductors have put themselves at the service of this music - individual personalities do not emerge to over-interpret Handel's musical and dramatic intentions. The music is allowed to speak for itself in both recordings, and the big moments ("See the Conqu'ring Hero", for example) are given their full due, making great impact (and an interesting contrast) in either scale.
The digital sound on the Budday CDs is excellent, catching the details of the soloists, choir, and orchestra as if it were a studio recording, but with the added atmosphere of a live hall - it sounds absolutely great in my listening room (using Yamaha 200W amp, ADS 9 speakers, and Denon CD player equipment). The Mackerras recording has great studio sound which I would characterize as detailed and full, but less atmospheric since it's ADD and not live. It also sounds a little "closer", which is an artifact of being a studio recording.
Budday's soloists are all excellent and have beautiful voices! They all sound young, fresh, and in particular they sound as if they all live with this kind of music. They sing gloriously - bright and strong in the ensembles, tender and quite moving in solos and duets. The choir (Maulbronner Chamber Choir) is less massive than modern performances tend to use - and thus more detailed and clear, and in some places men use falsetto in place of women in some alto solos, to haunting effect. Mackerras' soloists are all great singers, some of whom are opera stars and others whom are known for HIP careers. Janet Baker in particular is simply captivating, and her duets with Felicity Palmer are quite moving. The Wandsworth School Choir, boys, sounds larger and fuller, thus less detailed and clear by comparison. I know some people feel boys choirs sound too homogeneous, but I think it works well here.
Budday's orchestra (Musica Florea Prag) uses original instruments and HIP techniques and they sound wonderful, you hear everything. The string sound is warm (early HIP performances could sound "dry" to modern ears). The playing is technically excellent, crisp, often breathtaking, and always very sensitive. Mackerras' orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, is closer to a modern symphony orchestra. They sound full and warm, with a richness that many listeners have become accustomed to, but they are also crisp and totally inside this music.
What to do, what to do? If you're looking for an accurate rendering of this music that is close to what Handel's audience heard, than this Budday recording is the one. If you're a Janet Baker fan (like I am), then Mackerras will be for you. If you prefer digital sound, then Budday is the way to go (although both sound great). If you like to hear the intricate details in the orchestra and chorus, well, then Budday is for you.
For me, I'll tell ya, I am glad I have both now. I simply cannot make up my mind and I love them both!

R. Nadel 'Opinion Above Knowledge!' (Boulder, CO, USA) on Amazon.com

George Fr. Handel · JephthaGeorge Fr. Handel · Jephtha
George Frideric Handel
Jephtha
The English Oratorio HWV 70, performed according to the traditions of the time
by Emma Kirkby (Soprano), Melinda Paulsen (Mezzo-Soprano),
Charles Humphries (Countertenor), Julian Podger (Tenor),
Stephen Varcoe (Bass), Monastery Baroque Orchestra,
Maulbronn Chamber Choir (Maulbronner Kammerchor)
Conductor: Jürgen Budday
A concert recording from the church of the German
UNESCO World Heritage Site Maulbronn Monastery
DDD · Double Album · c. 150 Minutes
2 CD
EUR 33,00SpotifyiTunes Apple MusicReview

A splendidly atmospheric recording

The oratorio Jephta was George Frideric Handel's last large work, written in 1751 in London and first performed at Covent Garden in the following year. This dramatic and poetic work in three movements reflects the inner aspect of Jephta's unsolvible solitude when he is expelled from Gilead by his half-brothers and grows up in exile. This splendidly atmospheric recording was made at the medeieval Monastery Maulbronn in Germany and fully captures the music's great force and beauty. The performers here include Emma Kirkby (soprano), Melinda Paulsen (mezzo-soprano), Charles Humphries (alto), Julian Podger (tenor), Stephen Varcoe (bass), together with the Barockorchester der Klosterkonzerte, Maulbronner Kammerchor, and conductor Jürgen Budday.

New Classics UK

Review

Clear and beautiful

In this public performance of his last oratorio, recorded and performed at the church of monastery Maulbronn in Germany, the sound is very clear and beautiful...This K&K issue is pleasurable a worthwhile addition to the work´s discography...

John T. Hughes, International Record Review

Review

***** I could not be happier with this superb recording

I have been listening to Jephtha and Samson quite extensively, and I must say that these two recordings are truly impressive. First, the cast of soloists is an absolutely superb assembly of historically-informed performers. It would be hard to find singers any better than Emma Kirkby, Steven Varcoe, Michael Chance. I found all of the performances by the soloists nearly impeccable.
Second, I suspected that the recordings themselves might be filled with ambient and background noises since these were the result of live performances.
I have been extremely pleased with the technical aspects of the recordings: they are 'clean' and clear with very little extraneous sounds. The engineering of these recordings is highly commendable!!
Finally, the orchestral playing by the Barockorchester der Klosterkonzerte and the participation of the Maulbronner Kammerchor are nearly flawless. The string playing is especially strong, and the choruses - filled with drama and emotion - are executed at the highest possible level. Even the pronunciation and intonation of the English is perfect. In sum, I could not be happier with these two superb recordings. Already possessing several recorded versions of each of these masterful oratorios, I felt that it would be difficult to match the strength and quality of, for example, the performance under John Elliot Gardiner.
These two new additions by K&K Verlagsanstalt to the recorded Handel repertoire are magnificent models, exemplary of how to bring these monumental works to life for the modern audience. The crisp, clear recording, the excellent engineering, the incredible acoustics, the superb performances make these two of the best Handel compact discs I have purchased in a long time.
I should be most happy if you would keep my name on your mailing list, since I would like to be informed when your fine enterprise releases any more Baroque repertoire. These are performances to be treasured and are of the highest caliber of historically-informed practice.

Thomas R. McCallum (USA) on Amazon.com

Review

Very impressive

Kirkby shines vocaly, this being a performance to emphasise the profound and the serious. The chorus sing strongly, with warm and rounded tone, and firm lines; several of the choral numbers are very impressive, for example the Part I chorus '0 God, behold our sore distress', which has considerable grandeur. The marvellous chorus that ends Part 2, one of Handel's noblest, 'How dark, 0 Lord, are thy decrees, all hid from human sight' (his blindness overcame him as he wrote it) is well sung. Some of the quicker choruses are done with real vigour and confidence, for example 'When his loud voice' and the jubilant final ones.
The resonant church recording enriches the sound of the choir. The orchestra is hearty and the conductor, Jürgen Budday, draws some buoyant rhythms from them in the faster music.
The strongest inducement to buy this set lies in the loveliness of Emma Kirkby's singing. This is no longer the exquisite, delicate thread of sound that it once was, but it is still exquisite and delicate while being much fuller and richer, and her characterisation of lphis, the daughter of Jephtha who 'must a victim fall' because of his 'impious vow' to sacrifice the first person he encounters after victory. Listen to her wonderfully shapely and natural singing of 'Tune the soft melodious lute', for example, or 'Farewell, ye limpid springs and floods', as she movingly welcomes death.
Storgè is sung with strength and clarity by Melinda Paulsen (who also does the Angel air in Part 3). Jephtha himself is well taken by Julian Podger, a very capable singer. He is at his best in the heroic music, such as 'His mighty arm'. Zebul is warmly and sensitively sung by Stephen Varcoe, Charles Humphries provides an able Hamor, duetting gracefully with Emma Kirkby in two numbers.

Stanley Sadie, Gramophone Magazine

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