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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



GREAT BAROQUE ARIAS

Let the trumpet's loud clangour (Handel: Ode for St Cecilia's Day) ***
Schafe konnen sicher weiden (Bach: Cantata No. 208) *
Ombra mai fu (Handel: Serse) **
Arise ye subterranean winds (Weldon) ****
Where'er you walk (Handel: Semele) ***
O ruddier than the cherry (Handel: Acis and Galatea) ****
When I am laid in earth (Purcell: Dido and Aeneas) *
Heroes, when with glory burning (Handel: Joshua) **
Waft her, angels, through the skies (Handel: Jeptha) ***
Revenge, Timotheus cries (Handel: Alexander's Feast) ****
Sol da te mio dolce amore (Vivaldi: Orlando Furioso) **
How willing my paternal love (Handel: Samson) ****
Let the bright Seraphim (Handel: Samson) *

Gillian Fisher, soprano *
James Bowman, alto **
John Mark Ainsley, tenor ***
Michael George, bass ****
King's Consort, Robert King.
Rec: 1987, St. Pauls', Southgate, London.
REGIS RRC 1062 [61.22]
For around £6 from your dealer

The aria was born in the baroque period. With the development of sacred vocal music, and the advent of opera, this form became an important means of expressing both religious and secular sentiment, and became the centerpiece of many works, such as cantatas, oratorios, and, naturally, operas.

This disc contains some of the greatest arias of the period (although there are so many that this is a difficult choice). They pieces are by the best-known baroque composers - Handel, Bach, Purcell, and Vivaldi - as well as one by a little-known composer, Weldon.

Like all "recital" discs, it is important not only to have good works, and good soloists, but also to organize them in a way that they interact and enhance each other. This disc opens with a brilliant fanfare by Handel, Let the trumpet's loud clangour - and clangour is exactly what they create. John Mark Ainsley gives his all in this bright and energetic piece. The tone then changes for Schafe konnen sicher weiden from Bach's cantata 208, a secular cantata. Gillian Fisher has a beautiful voice, and carries this mournful tune with great talent.

Handel gets the lion's share of this disc, with several beautiful, moving arias, such as Ombra mai fu from Serse, an unforgettable song interpreted by the magnificent James Bowman. He is impeccable here; his crystalline tone is deeply touching, and his phrasing is perfect. He is very parsimonious with his vibrato - overuse of which can ruin a song like this - and gives an extraordinary rendition of this aria. This piece alone would make this disc worth having.

The only Purcell song is When I am laid in earth, from Dido and Aeneas, another moving, haunting aria sung exquisitely by Gillian Fisher, whose mournful tone can almost bring tears to the eyes, when she sings, "Remember me…"

One of the most beautiful pieces on this disc - and there are many - has to be Sol da te mio dolce amore, from Vivaldi's Orlando Furioso. This aria is constructed like many of Bach's cantata arias - the singer is accompanied by a minimal continuo, here with organ, and an obbligato flute plays interweaved with the vocal line. This is a slow, poignant aria, yet, at times, the flute flies off into rapid melodies, but always with the minimal, almost droning organ playing in the background. Bowman is excellent here, again, although it times the organ slightly overpowers his voice.

This is an excellent collection of some beautiful baroque arias, and contains some true gems performed by some of the best soloists. Personally, I am most touched by the slower, more moving pieces, of which there are many. At its bargain price, this is a must-have disc for all lovers of baroque vocal music.

Kirk McElhearn


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