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George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)

Rinaldo – Laschia ch’io pianga – Act II Scene IV HWV 7 (1710) [4.16]
Alcina – Tornami a vagheggiar – Act I Scene XV HWV34 (1735) [4.18]
Alcina - Ah! Mio cor – Act II Scene VIII XV HWV34 (1735) [8.48]
Concerto in D major Op.6 No.5 – Allegro –HWV323 (1739) [2.31]
Giulio Cesare in Egitto -E pur così in giorno…Piangerò la sorte mia – Recitative and Aria Act III Scene II HWV 17 (1724) [6.19]
Giulio Cesare in Egitto - V’adoro pupille - Sinfonia and aria, Act II Scene II HWV 17 (1724) [5.59]
Guilio Cesare in Egitto - Da tempeste - Act III Scene VII HWV 17 (1724) [5.30]
Semele – Overture (Grave) HWV 58 (1743) [6.44]
Semele – Oh Sleep why dost thou leave me - Act II Scene II HWV 58 (1743) [3.02]
Overture (Gavotte) HWV 58 (1743) [1.40]
Myself I shall adore – Act III Scene III - HWV 58 (1743) [6.40]
Xerxes – Ne men con l’ombre – Act I Scene VII - HWV 40 (1738) [2.30]
Xerxes – Chi cede al furore – Act II Scene XIV - HWV 40 (1738) [4.06]
Yvonne Kenny (soprano)
Australian Brandenburg Orchestra/Paul Dyer
Recorded in the Eugene Goossens Hall, ABC Centre, Ultimo, September 1997
ABC CLASSICS 456 689-2 [63.50]


Yvonne Kenny has been one of the most impressive of Handel sopranos for so many years now that it has even been possible to take her for granted. The level of tonal beauty, operatic intensity, mastery of divisions, intelligent appreciation and application of ornaments, blending of voices in duets, superior impersonation and acting skills that Kenny has evinced, however, are rare commodities. She first sang Alcina, Sutherland’s famous role, moving on to include Semele and Xerxes, Julius Caesar and Rinaldo amongst others that will be remembered by many. Her performances with ENO are imperishable memories for me.

Here she joins with her fellow Australian Paul Dyer and the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra for a series of arias from some of the works noted above, ones powerfully associated with her. Also included in a way familiar from other Australian original instrument discs are some purely orchestral items. They act as a recital contrast, though many greedily will want more Kenny.

Having spoken admiringly of her command and application of ornaments I’m going to contradict myself with the very first item, nothing less than Laschia ch’io pianga. I admire the singing but who on earth concocted the ornaments? They are simply excessive and ruin the lyric line and I can’t believe that on listening to them someone didn’t wince. Well obviously no one did and I’m out on a limb but this is an aria that is so powerfully expressive it doesn’t need this level of extraneous business. Her Alcina arias are very much better behaved in this respect. The recording, made back in 1997, may pick up a slight spread at the top of the voice but generally Kenny’s conviction is quite able to accommodate it, even if some may object to certain aspects of her vibrato usage. There is a chastely moving Piangerò la sorte mia quite properly prefaced by its recitative (well paced) with a commanding B section. The accompaniment to V’adoro pupille with theorbo, bassoon and oboe is deft and there’s a refined inward nobility at work here. Sometimes I detected a sharp edge to the voice in De tempeste but the divisions are authoritative and athletic. The selections from Semele include a good Overture from Dyer and the Orchestra and Oh Sleep why dost thou leave me, which is shaded with instrumental textures of mellifluous tone painting. In Myself I shall adore she is trippingly self-regarding - as she must be – and the tempo is certainly not forced. There are two arias from Xerxes, the first quite straight and Chi cede al furore from Act II which features a good quick trill, a few tough registral leaps, confident divisions and an air of bracing command.

Unlike a recent ABC recording of Kenny singing English song, which was horribly resonant, this is entirely better and was taped in the Eugene Goossens Hall, ABC Centre, Ultimo. Balance between voice and band is just and the sound, if a trifle chilly, is still very acceptable. There are full texts provided and some sumptuous colour and black and white photographs of the soprano in her stage roles. Voluptuaries will like to know there’s a (chaste) photograph of her in her bath in Julius Caesar. You never get that with James Bowman.

Jonathan Woolf


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