The Royal Academy of Music’s 1724-25 season. Handel has three hits on his hands: Tamerlano , Giulio Cesare and Rodelinda . Fast forward to 2020 and it’s not looking so good for live music. Harry Bicket and the English Concert can’t perform their annual Carnegie Hall Handel opera, so they decide to record instead, on home soil.


Which wasn’t without its problems, as Bicket reflects: “The challenges were huge; all performers had to be two metres away from each other, which for an orchestra is like trying to juggle with one hand tied behind one’s back.”

Yet the challenges were overcome. The resulting recording, made over a few days in St John’s Smith Square, London, demonstrates how well these guys really could “juggle with one hand tied behind one’s back”.

Bicket is of course a seasoned Handelian. And a seasoned Rodelindian. He first conducted Rodelinda in the late 1990s, at Glyndebourne. Not to mention, famously, at the Met, with...