> Handel - Oratorio Arias [KM]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Georg Friedrich HAENDEL (1685-1759)
Oratorio Arias

Belshazzar (1745)
Destructive War (2:25)
Oh sacred oracles of Truth (4:58)
Semele (1744)
Despair no more shall wound me (4:50)
Your tuneful voice (5:44)
Theodora (1750)
The raptured soul (8:12)
Deeds of kindness (7:14)
Kind Heaven (5:39)
Sweet rose and lily (2:48)
Saul (1739)
Brave Jonathan (3:03)
O Lord, whose mercies numberless (3:54)
Jephtha (1752)
Up the dreadful steep ascending (3:50)
Dull delay (3:17)
Messiah (1741)
He was despised (10:47)
David Daniels, counter-tenor
Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, John Nelson direction
Rec: September 2000, Eglise Notre-Dame du Liban, Paris.
VIRGIN 7243 5 45497 2 4 [67.23]

David Daniels is one of the finest counter-tenors singing and recording today, and is at his strongest when singing Handel. He has appeared in many recordings and performances of Handelís operas and oratorios, and has already recorded one disc of opera arias. On this disc, Daniels approaches Handelís oratorios, sacred dramas - structurally similar to operas - which were composed toward the end of Handelís career, and which are also in English (unlike his operas).

I am a big fan of David Daniels, and welcome this disc with great pleasure and high expectations. The difficulty of such a disc lies less in the actual performance of the works - Daniels is a consummate performer, and such studio recordings allow the singer and musicians to usually come up with good recordings. The challenge is more in providing a satisfying program, as for a stage recital, with enough variety, musicality and energy to keep the listener attracted throughout the disc. In this measure, Daniels and John Nelson are very successful. While there is no shortage of fine arias in Handelís many oratorios, the selection here works well, both is the quality of the music and in the variety of the types of pieces.

The rhythm and feeling of this disc switch often from fast, virtuoso arias to slower, more intense pieces. For example, the two arias from Semele, Despair no more shall wound me and Your tuneful voice, make a pair of opposites: the former is full of energetic leaps and a lively tempo, and the latter one of Handelís most emotionally powerful arias, with less of a presence of the musicians. However, in this aria, the solo violin playing obbligato, which is at the left of the sound-space, almost becomes too present at times.

The sound is probably the main drawback of this disc. With the strings to the left, the continuo to the right, and Daniels in the centre, the music sounds unbalanced, especially when listening on headphones. But when one reaches the end of this disc, which culminates in one of Handelís absolute greatest arias, He was despised, from Messiah, one can forget the sound and be grateful that David Daniels exists, and that he sings this unforgettable music. For the almost eleven minutes of this aria, the listener is carried away by Danielsí sensitive interpretation of this masterpiece.

Kirk McElhearn

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