Italian oratorio seems to offer a great deal of fascination
to continental-based ensembles presumably because the Italian
texts make the works easier to perform well with non-Anglophone
singers. But there are significant differences, between this
work and the later oratorios. The later works use choruses and
have quite strong narrative and moral elements. The English
Oratorios were written for mainly English-trained singers whose
style was expressive rather than virtuoso; in them the older
Handel aimed for a new style.
Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno is young man’s
music, full of dazzling bravura elements and designed to be
sung by some of the chief virtuosi of the day. Handel’s Italian
cantatas and oratorios have a commonality with his early Italian
operas. In fact Handel mined his cantatas and Italian oratorios
when writing his first operas in London.
we should expect bravura performances and virtuoso feats when
listening to the music as well as da capo sections suitably
regards plot, well there isn’t any; at least not when compared
to the English dramatic oratorios. The allegorical text was
written by Cardinal Pamphili and it is more of a debate than
an actual dramatic event. Beauty has sworn to be faithful to
Pleasure but after much debate she is turned away from Pleasure
by Time and Disillusionment - strictly non-Illusion, hence the
role is usually referred to as Truth. Cardinal Pamphili had
a good ear for melody and rhythm in his written Italian, but
his plot is exceedingly thin and very repetitious.
Handel clothed this in brilliant music. This was his first Italian
oratorio and you would think it must have pleased both his Roman
patrons and their audiences. But we know little about the work’s
first performance and it seems to have made little or no impression
in the surviving record. Having mined the work for the operas
Agrippina and Rinaldo Handel then let the piece
sleep until 1737 when it was performed in London in a lengthened
version, with chorus, called Il Trionfo del Tempo e della
Verita. Then finally, in 1757, the blind composer aided
by John Christopher Smith re-worked the piece with a new English
libretto by Thomas Morrell to become The Triumph of Truth
and Time, the very last Handelian oratorio.
work requires virtuosity from all those concerned; not just
the singers but the instrumentalists as well. It opens with
a dazzling concerto grosso-type overture and from then
on, the instrumentalists are required to contribute solos to
many of the arias.
of the most notable episodes is the Sonata following the recitative
Quest e la Reggia mia. Here Handel includes a solo for
organ which effectively transforms the piece into an organ concerto.
This also enables us to get a glimpse of Handel’s astounding
technique at the keyboard, with which he pleased and amazed
Alessandrini and his group attack the work with virtuosity,
gusto and energy. Alessandrini’s speeds are remarkably brisk.
He manages to get through the piece in 133 minutes: faster than
Mark Minkowski at 139 and Emmanuelle Haim at 146. But his players
and singers cope admirably and for most of the time you feel
caught up in the excitement. The work seems neither hurried
nor rushed. Only occasionally did I wish that Alessandrini could
profitably have lingered over some details.
two soprano soloists, Deborah York as Beauty and Gemma Bertagnolli
as Pleasure have nicely differentiated voices. York is all hard
brilliance, bright tone and good articulation. Bertagnolli,
whilst as technically accomplished as York, has a softer, darker
warmer sound as Pleasure. So that the vocal casting seems to
work well with the type of characters portrayed. Sara Mingardo
has a lovely dark-toned voice as Truth. Nicholas Sears as Time
is attractive and stylish but perhaps not quite comfortable
with some of Alessandrini’s tempi.
performance is not without eccentricity - most notably the rather
mannered playing in Lasci la Spina - better known in
its later incarnation as Lascia ch’io pianga.
though, this performance is greater than the sum of its parts;
each individual contributing to the wonderfully vivid effect.
There are a number of other recordings of the work in the catalogue.
The most recent is Emanuelle Haim’s account, but David Vickers,
in his Gramophone review described her account of the work as
wilful with many of the da capo repeats marred by unstylish
2001 account from Alessandrini was very well received in 2001.
It is still extremely welcome now that it has been reissued and
should be high on everyone’s list. If you are looking for an affordable
and recommendable recording of Handel’s first oratorio then look
no further. You will not be disappointed by this lively and vivid