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Seen & Heard
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Frideric HANDEL (1685–1759)
Silete Venti, HWV 242 [26.01]
Johann Adolf HASSE (1699–1783)
La Gelosia [18.01]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685–1750)
Non sa che sia dolore, BWV209 [21.50]
Emma Kirkby (soprano) (Handel);
Sophie Boulin (soprano) (Hasse); Isabelle Poulenard
Cappella Coloniensis/Hans-Martin Linde (Handel, Hasse);
Ferdinand Leitner (Bach)
rec. Bielfeld, Oekerhalle, 31 March 1985 (Handel), 8 June
1985 (Hasse), 8 June 1987 (Bach)
Venti was written in the 1720s. This
was rather late in his career for a Latin motet – especially
one constructed like a cantata. It could hardly have
been written for an English church service so we must
presume that it was written for another occasion, presumably
for one of his star sopranos. It is a dazzling work.
Handel was justly proud of it, as he raided it numerous
times, notably for his oratorio Esther.
have always assumed that Handel’s sopranos had bigger,
richer-toned voices than Kirkby but this is not a question
which can be definitively answered. Instead we must address
ourselves to the question of whether Kirkby satisfies in
this music, and the answer must be a resounding yes. The
motet was recorded over twenty years ago when she was in
her prime. The voice is beautifully focused and flexible.
She navigates around Handel’s vocal lines with obvious
joy and communicates her enthusiasm. This pin-point accuracy
is combined with her familiar sweetness of tone. No, she
doesn’t have a big dramatic voice, but what she does here
is testimony enough to her musicality and the beauty of
disc contains three cantatas/motets by three baroque composers,
all recorded during the 1980s by three rather different
sopranos. Frankly, I would have preferred it if we had
had Kirkby for all three. But the repertoire is fascinating
so I am happy to report that the other two sopranos are
more than adequate.
Boulin is the soloist in Johan Adolf Hasse’s cantata La
Gelosia. Hasse was 14 years younger than Handel
and Bach. Born in Hamburg, like Handel he travelled to
Italy in his youth and became one of the leading purveyors
of opera seria. He married Handel’s prima donna,
Fautina Bordoni, and the pair ruled the Dresden Opera House.
Hasse’s operas were much beloved of singers. His work lacks
the dramatic and emotional depth of Handel’s, but Hasse
was able to construct brilliant virtuoso arias which enabled
singers to show off their best talents.
Gelosia sets a text by Metastasio, many of whose opera libretti Hasse set.
The cantata works like a short opera-scena. Whilst Handel
would probably have managed to write a work which made
the singer sound more jealous, Hasse has created a pair
of arias which show off the singer quite brilliantly.
Boulin does not quite have the same easy flexibility
as Kirkby, particularly in the upper reaches of the voice.
However she copes well with Hasse’s demands and gives
a more than creditable account.
final piece on the disc is an Italian cantata which is
probably by J.S. Bach. The text, though in Italian, was
written by a German for an unspecified occasion. The music,
if not by Bach, comes from his circle. It must be borne
in mind that we know few of Bach’s early, non-sacred cantatas.
The piece opens with a lovely movement for strings and
solo transverse flute. When the voice enters things are
a little less happy, Isabelle Poulenard has a rather edgy
tone and her passage-work tends to be laboured. This is
not an ideal performance, but Poulenard’s limitations are
not enough to put one off; there is still much to enjoy.
three singers are well accompanied by Cappella Coloniensis
and this makes for a delightful programme.
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