Handel's L'Allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato was composed in 1740, and musically it shares much with Messiah, from a couple of years later. It has been comparatively neglected because, in several ways, it does not hang together as well as the later work. Based on a pair of poems by John Milton, L'Allegro (The Joyful One) and Il Penseroso (The Thoughtful One), with a third middle-of-the-road type added by Messiah librettist Charles Jennens (whom one satirist dubbed "Il Moderatissimo"), the work has been called an oratorio, a semi-oratorio, a pastoral ode, and more. It has no plot to speak of, and Handel kept revising the work to suit new performance demands, with the result that its performance tradition has accumulated a large number of random arias. This performance by conductor Paul McCreesh and his Gabrieli Consort & Players represents an attempt to reconstruct what Handel intended for the original performance, and far from being an exercise, this results in a concise work with a persuasive alternation of big, Messiah-like choruses and arias that embody the qualities depicted in the poems. For those who love Messiah and have never heard this work, sample the opening chorus-and-bass number on CD 2, "Populous cities please me then," with its big musical spaces. McCreesh introduces each of the work's three sections with an instrumental concerto, something well attested to in the original sources, and he benefits from an exceptionally strong group of soloists who capture the moods essential to what logic the work has. Strongly recommended for anyone interested in going beyond the Handelian basics.