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HANDEL (1685-1759) Il Trionfo del tempo e del disinganno (1707)
Dessay (soprano) – Bellezza
Ann Hallenberg (mezzo) - Piacere
Sonia Prina (alto) - Disinganno
Pavol Breslik (tenor) - Tempo
Le Concert d’Astrée/Emmanuelle Haim (harpsichord, organ,
rec. IRCAM, Paris, March 2004, January 2006 VIRGIN
CLASSICS 3634282 [72:20 + 73:12]
Recordings of Il Trionfo del tempo e del disinganno, in
whichever edition, are rather sparse. This performance of
the 1707 version of the oratorio comes with a heavyweight
cast and ensemble, presided over by Emmanuelle Haim, and
it provides some dramatic and exuberant music-making.
The cast is eye-catching indeed. Ann Hallenberg has a rapier
mezzo of real distinction in this repertoire. Her trill is
good if not quite electric in velocity and though there’s
a touch spread at the topmost reach of the tessitura the
dramatic implications are frequently memorable. The touch
of floridity she brings to, say, Fosco genio is entirely
Natalie Dessay takes a major share vocally as Bellezza.
Her vertiginous Una schiera di piaceri is excellently
dispatched, as are the rather fruity decorations. Un Pensiero
nemico di pace however sounds too fast; she is just able
to project the lines musically but the breathless tempo robs
the aria of due significance and this is by no means the
only occasion when Haim pushes her singers to something beyond
acceptable speeds. I would certainly draw the reader’s attention
to the B section of Crede l’uom ch’egli riposi, which
is really outrageously fast and deliberately breached from
the surrounding calm, lyric melody like a phantasmagoria.
That may have indeed been the intended effect but it sounds
to me highly dubious. Sonia Prina is a first class Disinganno
taking her recitatives with a conspicuously good sense of
pacing and all her arias with technical brilliance and tonal
As Tempo the cast is enriched by the presence of Pavol
Breslik. That said his First Part standout aria Urne voi sounds
very peculiar in this performance. The stabbing accents that
Haim brings to bear and the sense of this more as a dramatic
recitative cum aria all collude in making this sound histrionic.
I should stress that the fault, if it be such, resides not
in the singing as such, more in the melodrama that impels
it. Breslik also bears a considerable brunt in the punishing
demands placed upon him by Haim in È ben folle. He’s
such an agile singer that directors and conductors presumably
try to encourage him to push tempi but this one is exaggerated.
Instrumentally there are some fine contributions. The oboe
principal is particularly distinguished both tonally and
in terms of floating lyric phrasing. The solo violinist and
leader Stephanie-Marie Degand is sensitive and her intonation
is conspicuously secure. Haim is a busy and colouristic presence.
Her “organ concerto” in Part One is entertaining though I
do find the very busy harpsichord continuo in Bellezza’s
aria Venga il Tempo rather distracting. There are
some rather extreme rubati here in this aria as well that
may well strike the unsympathetic listener as mannered.
Then there is the question of ornamentation. In something
like Disinganno’s aria Crede l’uom ch’egli riposi it
is arguably overdone; its da capo weight can overbalance
the arias and some of the ornaments do draw far too much
attention to themselves, notwithstanding Prina’s superb singing;
discreet ornamentation is not always in evidence in this
recording. Something of the same happens in Part Two’s Tu
giurasti di mai non lasciarmi where once more the ear
is drawn too predictably to the excessive ornamentation.
Still these points, whilst critical, are meant to show
that not all solutions will meet with universal praise. Other
listeners will reach diametrically opposed conclusions to
my own and will find much of this enriching, enlivening,
exciting and intensely dramatic. And it’s certainly the case
that dramatic tension is screwed up for the last dozen recitatives,
arias and one duet. The close of the oratorio is indeed a
triumph and the great merits of much of the performance come
into close focus here.
A more clement and less intoxicatingly theatrical performance
can be heard on Naïve with Deborah
York, Gemma Bertagnolli, Sara Mingardo, Nicholas Sears and
the Concerto Italiano under Rinaldo Alessandrini. Things
are never so extreme here and tempi are, some will suggest,
more considered and grateful.
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