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Early Music

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HENRY PURCELL (1659-1695)
Dioclesian Suite [1690]
GEORG FRIEDRICH HANDEL (1685 - 1759)
Concerto grosso op. 6 no. 6 [1739]
Il duello amoroso [1708]
Henry Purcell
Orchestral suite from “Dioclesian”
With songs for soprano, countertenor and B.c.
1. Overture
2.  a) Dance
     b) Song “If music be the food”
3.  a) Dance of Bacchanals
     b) Trumpet tune
4.  a) Prelude
     b) Song “Oh how happy”
     c) Hornpipe
5. Dance of the Furies
6. First music
7. Duet “Lost is my quiet”
8.  a) Prelude
     b) Song “Let the soldiers rejoice”
     c) Act tune
9. Chaconne
10. a) Second Music
     b) Paspe
     c) Chair dance
Georg Friedrich Handel
Concerto grosso op. 6 No. 6 G Minor
11. Largo e affettuoso
12. A tempo giusto
13. Musette - Larghetto
14. Allegro
15. Allegro
Georg Friedrich Handel
“Il duello amoroso”, HWV 82
16. Sonata: Allegro Menuetto
17. Recitativo (Daliso)
18. Aria (Daliso)
19. Recitativo (Amarilli)
20. Aria (Amarilli)
21. Recitativo (Daliso / Amarilli)
22. Aria (Amarilli)
23. Recitativo (Daliso)
24. Aria (Daliso)
25. Recitativo (Amarilli / Daliso)
26. Aria a 2 con Ritornello (Amarilli / Daliso)
Nancy Argenta, soprano
Michael Chance, countertenor
Freiburger Barockorchester, Gottfried vor der Goltz
Rec. January 1993, Maria Minor, Utrecht, Netherlands
DHM 05472 77858 2 [68.48]

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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.

Kirk McElhearn


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