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Georg Friedrich HAENDEL (1685-1759)
Partenope

Meredith Hall (soprano)
Kai Wessel (countertenor)
Annette Markert (mezzo-soprano)
Christopher Josey (countertenor)
John McVeigh (tenor)
William Berger (bass)
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra/Nicholas McGegan
Rec: May 30 to June 5, 2001, International Handel Festival, Göttingen.
GÖTTINGEN HANDEL SOCIETY No catalogue number [192.39]


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This recording is available only to members of the Göttingen Handel Society. For more information: www.haendel.org

This set is a live recording of Handelís opera Partenope, recorded at the Göttingen International Handel Festival in 2001. There are pluses and minuses with the recording, one of Handelís finest operas.

The main problem with this recording is the recording itself. As a live recording, it suffers from many of the usual drawbacks, and it seems as if there was little attempt to iron out the flaws. Perhaps, there was just no other choice. The audience applauds after almost every aria, and not only is the applause annoying, but it is also very loud. A great deal of stage noise is heard, especially during the recitatives. We are treated to the sounds of people tramping around, of sets being moved, and more. The laughter heard from the audience mars the opening instrumental sections in act 2. I wonder what was going on to make them react so much. The singers are miked well, but at times their voices float in and out of the mix. The orchestra is generally well-balanced, though when the horns play in the aria Io seguo sol fiero, they are a bit too loud.

The music in this opera is excellent - "consistently superb", in the words of musicologist David Vickers, who wrote part of the notes for this recording. One of the high points is the aria with horns, mentioned above, that closes out the first act. Mezzo-soprano Annette Markert is truly excellent as Rosmira, and, in my opinion, outshines soprano Meredith Hall, who sounds tired, and rather overuses vibrato. Hall also has trouble hitting the high notes in many of her arias. Many of the other singers are not in their prime. Neither of the altos sounds very good, their singing being imprecise and full of hesitation. Tenor John McVeigh is fine, though he too tends to over-use vibrato. However, the "choir", that is, when the soloists sing the few choral movements together, sounds terrible. There is no homogeneity among the singers. It sounds like a group of amateurs who do not know how to sing in a group.

Probably the biggest drawback of this recording is the omnipresent audience noise. During the first act, on the first disc, this was bearable. As the recording goes on it gets increasingly annoying. Sure, this is a live recording, but there are ways of editing out this noise, or at least tempering it a bit. If you can deal with such noises, you will certainly find some excellent music and some very good singing. Overall, though, this is not a good enough recording to deserve any kind of recommendation. Other recordings made at the Handel Festival are much better and do deserve notice.

Kirk McElhearn


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