is a plethora of brilliant mezzo-sopranos around today. In the
last few months recitals by Lili Paasikivi, Catherine King,
Christianne Stotijn, Sophie Koch and Magdalena Kozena have come
my way. They were impressive in their respective ways. In complete
sets and elsewhere Elina Garanca, Christine Rice, Marie-Ange
Todorovitch, Marianne Beate Kielland and Joyce DiDonato have
shown their credentials. Now Angelika Kirchschlager joins the
company. Ms Kirchschlager is not exactly new, she made her operatic
debut in Graz in 1992, and was engaged at the Vienna State Opera
two years later. She appears in the most prestigious houses
and concert halls and has a number of highly acclaimed recordings
to her credit. Of all the mezzos listed hers is possibly the
lightest, brightest and most flexible, something that is important
when it comes to Handel’s florid writing. Handel wrote these
arias to show off his singers. The fabled Margherita Durastanti,
the creator of Sesto in Giulio Cesare and also Tauride
in Arianna in Creta, is represented here by the dramatic
and brilliant Quall eon, where two obbligato French horns
illustrate the roaring felines. This is the last track (tr.
11) but the tracklist and the aria texts have been reversed.
The order presented in the heading above is correct.
being a Handel specialist I have long admired his tireless musical
invention. Every time I come across a new aria I am just as
stunned. Some of the arias here are old friends and favourites,
those from Giulio Cesare, for example, and Dopo notte
from Ariodante, but whether he writes lively dramatic
pieces, with breakneck coloratura, like Con l’ali di costanza
(tr. 2) or gloomily elegiac examples like Scherza infida
(tr. 3) the freshness of the invention remains just as striking.
Newcomers could dip in at random and find grains of gold. Kirchschlager
with her stunning technique never puts a foot wrong. Even the
most intricate runs and trills are executed with superior elegance.
is backed by alert playing on period instruments by Kammerorchester
Basel, who to no inconsiderable degree contribute to the overall
excellence of this disc. Conductor Laurence Cummings, whom I
first encountered as harpsichordist in a series of recordings
for Naxos, never lets the tension slacken. The recorded sound
is crisp and atmospheric and the booklet gives good information
in three languages. This disc is another highly attractive addition
to my already impressive collection of present-day mezzos.