One is often disappointed by
discs that contain works by more than one composer. It is difficult to
marry works that are not only different in spirit, but, as in this case,
from different centuries. The time span between these various works is
not extreme, but the relationship between the music by these two composers
is less tenuous than one might expect.
Henry Purcell’s Dioclesian, one
of his ‘semi-operas’, a work involving both spoken text and music, is
perhaps one of his ‘lesser’ works, as compared to the great Fairy Queen
and King Arthur, but as this Orchestral Suite from the work shows, certainly
contains the same emotion and musical creativity that made Purcell the
genius he was. This suite includes several movements from the work,
with songs for soprano, countertenor and basso continuo. Soprano Nancy
Argenta is quite good, but not at the top of her abilities here - she
sings some of the high notes with a lack of confidence, though at other
times she comes through quite well. The real beauty of this work is
the duet Lost is my quiet, where Argenta’s voice melds perfectly with
that of countertenor Michael Chance. Musically, the Freiburger Barockorchester
gives a spirited performance of this work.
Handel’s concerto grosso op.
6 no. 6, performed here in a version with 2 oboes and bassoon, is a
dramatic work, opening with a movement that sounds almost like a vocal
aria. The second slow movement is followed by the central musette -
larghetto, the longest movement of the work, then an allegro, where
the violin shines. The final allegro is a simple dance movement. This
is an attractive concerto, but it lacks unity, and is clearly a collection
of disparate movements rather than a more coherent whole.
Handel’s Italian cantata Il duello
amoroso was written in Rome in 1708. This is attractive music, dating from Handel’s early
days, but is far from simple. One can hear the same type of music Handel
later used in his Italian operas, including the extremely melodious
arias that are the delight of listeners. Unfortunately, neither of the
singers is really in their best form. Both Chance and Argenta sound
a bit tired, have trouble hitting the higher notes, and their voices
waver. This is a shame, since both of these singers are generally excellent,
and their voices fit the Handelian style very well.
While this disc is interesting
in its selection of works, the singers bring down the quality of the
music. The Purcell is far more successful than the Handel cantata, and
is perhaps worth the budget price of this disc.