contralto Lydia Vierlinger was new to me but on the showing
of this disc of Handel arias she is certainly a name to watch.
Not that choosing to sing Handel is an easy option. The arias
from his English oratorios might be well known and, given
the right sort of voice and technique, will show off a singer
well, but they contain many traps for the unwary.
Vierlinger falls into
few of these traps and throughout the disc displays a warm,
contralto voice, one that seems to be entirely at home in
the lowish tessitura of these pieces. She does not have the
really dark sort of voice, as possessed by someone like Nathalie
Stutzman, instead Vierlinger has a lovely instrument which
is even-toned across the whole range.
Her technique is such that she preserves the vocal line
admirably whilst still being rather expressive. There were
moments when I would have wished for a little more temperament.
But given the fine musicality of such arias as He was
despised from Messiah, this seems a little churlish.
Characterisation is a little generalised, but this is often
a problem on recital records. I will have to reserve final
judgement until I have heard her in a complete recording
of a dramatic work.
Vierlinger studied in the USA and in London as well
as in her native Austria. Since 2004 she has taught at
the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna.
includes a great deal of choral experience, so she knows
this sort of oratorio repertoire from the inside out. Her
experience extends, though, through to romantic music and
even contemporary pieces. Her previous discs have included
a recital of Brahms duets with the soprano Doerthe Maria
Sandman and the world premiere recording of Telemann’s Pastorelle
The programme here consists of groups of arias from La
Resurrezione, Samson and Messiah, punctuated
by the overtures to Hercules and Messiah.
I’m not sure why it was decided to concentrate on just
three works, but Vierlinger and her conductor, Jörg Zwicker,
have produced a sequence which is far more balanced than
it at first looks. The arias have been carefully chosen
to vary in mood and character though, as I have said, I
could have wished that Vierlinger emphasised these variations
a little more. It says much for Vierlinger’s performances
that there were occasions when I wished that the performers
had continued with the work in question rather than jumping
to the next excerpt - this was particularly true of the Messiah excerpts.
Da Capo repeats are discreetly ornamented, though Vierlinger never goes over
the top. In a world where it is becoming common for ornamentation
to be over-done, this is very welcome, though some people
might wish that her ornaments were a little more elaborate.
Zwicker and the Capella Leopoldina are an admirable
support to Vierlinger, producing wonderfully lively, crisp
accompaniments that positively dance along in the more up-tempo
numbers. It says much for their expressiveness that the two
overtures were a delight in their own right rather being
tedious interludes to be endured. The Wiener Motettenchor
give fine choral support where required, so much so that
I thought it a shame that they did no warrant a choral movement
of their own.
But before I finish, I must mention one trap into which
Vierlinger does fall, that of language. Her accounts of the
Italian arias from La Resurrezione are entirely
admirable but things are less secure when it comes to the
Quite frankly Vierlinger’s English just is not good enough;
this might not bother some people but it does me. No matter
how musical the singer, I just cannot imagine listening repeatedly
to these accounts of Handel’s English arias sung in English
with a marked Austrian accent. I would have preferred them
recorded in German. This is a shame because there is so much
to enjoy in Vierlinger’s musical performances.
I can recommend this disc for its musicality and feel
for Handel’s music, but must warn off those for whom good
English is a sine qua non of Handel performance.