MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

alternatively AmazonUK   AmazonUS



Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Radamisto (1720)
Janet Baker (mezzo) – Radamisto
Malcolm King (bass) – Farasmane
Della Jones (mezzo) – Zenobia
Martyn Hill (tenor) – Tiridate
Eiddwen Harrhy (soprano) – Polissena
Lynda Russell (soprano) – Tigrane
Patrizia Kwella (soprano) – Fraarte
English Chamber Orchestra/Roger Norrington, studio broadcast 1984
Arnold SCHOENBERG (1874-1951)
Freihold Op.3 No.6 (1899-1903) [2:05]
Erwartung Op.2 No.1 (1899) [3:53]
Waldsonne Op.2 No.4 (1899) [3:00]
Traumleben Op.6 No.1 (1903-05) [2:34]
Am Wegrand Op.6 No.6 (1903-05) [2:23]
Der Wanderer Op.6 No.8 (1903-05) [4:34]
Ich darf nicht dankend Op.14 No.1 (1907-08) [2:09]
In diesen Wintertagen Op.14 No.2 (1907-08) [4:12]
Janet Baker (mezzo soprano)
Paul Hamburger (piano), undated
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Sea Pictures Op.37 (1900) [22:37]
Janet Baker (mezzo)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Georg Solti, live recording May 1984
PONTO PO 1054 [3 CDs: 75:24 + 79:03 + 79:44] 


The tercentenary of Handel’s birth produced a flurry of performances, recordings and broadcasts. Ponto notes baldly that this production of Radamisto was given in 1984 so without access to listings one can’t be sure but I assume it was given in that year by the BBC in advance of the busy year of 1985.  It may even have been re-broadcast during the latter year as well. I assume Ponto had access to the original circumstances of this studio broadcast so perhaps they’re keeping tactfully silent.

The performance of Radamisto is notable for an array of vocal talent headed by Janet Baker. Every name is familiar and admired. The ECO was a vibrant presence in the Handel operatic and oratorio market at this time and Norrington at the helm ensures that period practices are helpfully integrated into the fabric of a modern instrument performance – recitatives for instance, once the bane of some 1960s and 70s performances, move fluidly and intelligently, highly responsive to textual meaning and dramatic implications. Note Act I’s Reina, infausto avviso when Tigrane and Polissena’s recitative embodies fine pacing, telling rubato, and appropriately coloured accompaniment.  Some cuts though were clearly necessary to accommodate the length of the production.

Eiddwen Harrhy as Polissena has a vital role to play. She’s given some wickedly taxing writing early on both in her Act I Cavatina and in Scene II’s aria Tu vuoi ch’io parta. By the latter she’s settled down, after earlier initial stridency, and she manages the slow aria with real eloquence. Lynda Russell has a less dramatic voice than Harrhy’s though as she shows in Deh, fuggi un traditore it’s more rounded an instrument as well.

Martyn Hill’s youthful, eager and sometimes suave voice makes listening to his Tiridate a pleasure and he brings the same qualities of intimacy and textual awareness to bear as he does in his recitals of English Song. He’s shadowed by an especially fine principal trumpet in Stragi, morti and he dispatches Act III’s Alzo al volo di mia fama with lyric warmth and vitality. It’s an aria that combines the martial command of Arm, arm ye brave from Judas Maccabeus with the limpid generosity of Acis and Galatea’s Love in her eyes sits playing.  Zenobia is taken by Della Jones whose fiery impersonation and telling chest voice bring a whiff of gunpowder to the proceedings. Malcolm King proves a fine, evenly sung and technically impressive Farasmane, whose aria Son lievi le catene brings out the best in him. Patrizia Kwella’s appearance ensures a light, tightly focused and adept voice for Fraarte.

Baker enters with an especially imposing Cara sposa, amato bene. Her Act II aria Ombra cara di mia sposa is a kind of microcosm of Handel’s melodic self-borrowing and prefiguring. It evokes both Ombra mai fu and also Cara sposa, amante cara from Rinaldo. She tosses off one of Handel’s characteristic “ingrate” arias – in this case Act II’s Vanne, sorella ingrata - with fearless aplomb, managing the divisions with equal control. And of course she brings moving depth and directness to the great Act III Scene VII aria Qual nave smarrita.

This isn’t the opera for extensive duets but there’s one in the final scene of Act II – Se teco vive il cor – and here Baker and Jones ensure that their tones blend and differ timbrally wherever necessary.   

Baker was long associated with Handelian performance but her Schoenberg is another matter. She gives here an undated recital with Paul Hamburger of eight songs taken from Opp. 2, 3, 6 and 14. Recently a BBC Legends reissue has given us a Baker-Hamburger recital of songs by Schubert, Schumann, Strauss and Wolf, which was recorded in London in 1968. Baker discographers will doubtless know better than I whether this Schoenberg recital comes from the same year though it’s presumably from the same period. There’s certainly tape hiss but otherwise reasonable sound quality. The songs all occupy a late Romantic hinterland and were written within a decade. Baker and Hamburger find Brahmsian warmth in Erwartung and excavate light wit alternating with more florid expression in the splendid Waldsonne. Baker saves her imperious best for Am Wegrand. 

The third piece in this three CD set is Elgar’s Sea Pictures. Apart from the Barbirolli a Handley-conducted Baker version has emerged from much later, 1984, which is the same year that Baker sang it in Chicago with Solti. There are some marvellous things here. Solti’s conducting is terrifically exciting. Baker’s voice has depended since the famous recording and there are, invariably, changes of emphasis within a broadly similar frame. For example she elucidates the text of Where Corals Lie with more considered emphasis than before. Solti goes like the clappers in The Swimmer and the end is really grand. That’s where the good news ends. There’s considerable flutter and distortion on high notes and listening is annoying because of it.

Despite the doubts over provenance, dating and uneven sound quality this will be an enticing prospect for Baker admirers. The essay includes biographical details of her career and also potted biographies of her fellow cast members. No texts.

Jonathan Woolf


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing



Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.