> George Frideric Handel - Great Handel Arias [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- Jun2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Great Handel Arias

Vieni, o figlio (Ottone)
Voglio dire (Partenope)
Convey me to some peaceful shore (Alexander Balus)
La Speranza e giunta (Ottone)
Cangio d’aspetto (Admeto)
Dove sei (Rodelinda)
Lascia ch’io piango (Rinaldo)
La Rondinella – Cantata (Clori, Tirsi e Fileno)
Revenge, Timotheus cries (Alexander’s Feast)
Se un bell’ardier (Ezio)
Peace crowned with roses (Susanna)
The God of Battle (Hercules)
Wide spread his name (Theodora)
Leave me, loathsome Light (Semele)
Pensa a chi geme (Alcina)
Honour and Arms (Samson)
Bernadette Greevy, contralto, first eight items
Forbes Robinson, bass, last eight items
Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields
Raymond Leppard (for Greevy)
Philip Ledger (for Robinson)
Recorded 1966-67
DECCA ELOQUENCE 461 593-2 [77’34]

This is a stalwart disc, a reissue of recordings dating from 1966-67 and bringing together the voices of Bernadette Greevy, a contralto of discernment and depth and Forbes Robinson, redoubtable bass. Eight selections each, Greevy’s in particular is illuminated by canny selection chosen, one assumes, in collaboration with Raymond Leppard who plays harpsichord and directs. She gives us the still little known Convey me to some peaceful shore from Alexander Balus, certainly not as well known as it should be, as well as arias from such as Rinaldo and Rodelinda which are now much more part of the fabric of our experience than perhaps was the case when these recordings were made. We can note something of Greevy’s plangent lower register in Vieni, o figlio – her voice well supported, with a kind of passionate nobility and musicianship that I find very sympathetic: also there is her soft singing here which is well matched by the Academy’s strings. The aria from Alexander Balus is short but very expressive and Greevy’s textual awareness heightens it still further. There is abundant evidence of her sensitivity in Cangio d’aspetto with her well-taken runs and good breath control. In Dove sei it is notable how Leppard brings out the cello line and how affecting in general the strings are, as are her discreet portamentos. The aria from Rinaldo features a dramatic recitative with glowering and fractious lower strings and is correspondingly well sung by Greevy whilst Leppard’s infectious harpsichord makes its presence felt in La Rondinella; too florid for some, I suppose, but lively.

The rest of the recital is dedicated to the bass repertoire and it’s a sturdy, square-jawed selection in the main. Robinson was somewhat past his best here but still contributes well to the disc. He is rather blustery in Revenge, Timotheus cries, old fashioned perhaps and with reasonable runs but a little unfocused in tone which can lead to a certain immobility. But listen to his gross sibilants in "hiss" – these are mean and ferocious snakes and how well Robinson conveys it, without caricature. He is capacious and cavernous in Se un bell’ardier – sustained with adequate but not outstanding breath control. His runs in The God of Battle very slightly detract from an otherwise attractive performance but in Leave me, loathsome light, from Semele, he is inward, reflective, philosophical and appropriately softens and colours his tone beneath which Ledger gets sensitive orchestral contributions. A splendid performance. The transfers are equally good but there are no texts, though there are précis for each aria.

Jonathan Woolf


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