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George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Arias and Duets - The Anniversary Edition 1759-2009
CD 1 [78:18]
1. Recitativo: Frondi tenere [0:44]
2. Larghetto: Ombra mai fu [3:02]
3. Sinfonia: Pompe vane di mortel … [1:59]
4. Largo: Dove sei, amato bene? [4:14]
David Daniels (counter-tenor)
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Sir Roger Norrington
publ. 1998
5. Recitativo: Ma che parlo, che dico? [0:52]
6. Aria: In tanti affermi miei [3:40]
Veronique Gens (soprano)
Les Basses Réunies.
publ. 1999
7. Duet: Scherzano sul tuo volto [3:40]
Patrizia Ciofi (soprano), Joyce DiDonato (mezzo)
Il Complesso Barocco/Alan Curtis
publ. 2004
8. Scherza, infida [9:46]
Philippe Jaroussky (counter-tenor)
Le Concert d’Astrée/Emmanuelle Haim
publ. 2007
Aci, Galatea e Polifemo
9. Aria: Fra l’ombre e gl’orrori [6:08]
Laurent Naouri (bass-baritone)
Le Concert d’Astrée/Emmanuelle Haim
publ. 2002
10. Duetto: Sorge il di [3:25]
Sandrine Piau (soprano), Sara Mingardo (alto)
Le Concert d’Astrée/Emmanuelle Haim
publ. 2002
11. Recitativo: Amor, qual nuova fiamma mi risvegli ne core [0:48]
12. Aria: La tigre arde di sdegno [4:55]
13. Recitativo: Per me si strugge Trasimede, o Dio [0:33]
14. Aria: E per monti, e per piano, e per selve [6:20]
René Jacobs (alto), Jill Gomez (soprano)
Il Complesso Barocco/Alan Curtis
publ. 1978
15. Recit e Aria: Where shall I fly? [6:50]
Stephanie Blythe (contralto)
Ensemble Orchestral de Paris/John Nelson
publ. 2001
16. Cantata: Splenda d’alba in oriente [11:16]
Gérard Lesne (alto)
Il Seminario Musicale
publ. 1991
L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato
17. Duet: As steals the morn upon the night [5:00]
Ian Bostridge (tenor), Lynne Dawson (soprano)
Ensemble Orchestral de Paris/John Nelson
publ. 2000
Il Trionfo del Tempo s del Disinganno
18. Aria: Un pensiero nemico di pace [3:55]
Natalie Dessay (soprano)
Le Concert d’Astrée/Emmanuelle Haim
publ. 2007
CD 2 [77:37]
1. Aria: Fatto scrota al sentier della Gloria [4:56]
2. Aria: Fiacchero quel fiero orgoglio [3:44]
Vivica Genaux (mezzo), Riccardo Ristori (bass)
Il Complesso Barocco/Alan Curtis
publ. 2001
3. Aria: Verdi prati, selve amene [4:21]
4. Aria: Ombre pallide [6:35]
Della Jones (mezzo), Arleen Augér (soprano)
City of London Baroque Sinfonia/Richard Hickox
publ. 1986
5. Aria: Venti turbine [3:39]
David Daniels (counter-tenor)
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Sir Roger Norrington
publ. 1998
6. Recitativo: Dolcissima Esilena [0:46]
7. Duetto: Prendi l’alma e prendi il core [4:27]
Gloria Banditelli (mezzo), Sandrine Piau (soprano)
Il Complesso Barocco/Alan Curtis
publ. 1999
8. Aria: Nasconde l’usignol [6:28]
9. Aria: Nel riposo e nel contento [6:31]
10. Coro: Della Guerra la caccia ha sembianza [2:37]
Simone Kermes (soprano), Anna Bonitatibus (mezzo), Antonio Abete (baritone),
Il Complesso Barocco/Alan Curtis
publ. 2002
11. Tanti strali al sen, Duet HWV 197 [8:22]
Suzie LeBlanc (soprano), Derek Lee Ragin (counter-tenor)
Teatro Lirico/Stephen Stubbs
publ. 1996
12. Aria: Se’l mio duol non è si forte [6:45]
Sophie Daneman (soprano)
Raglan Baroque Players/Nicholas Kraemer
publ. 1998
Caro autor di mia doglia, HWV 182a
13. Caro autor di mia doglia [2:19]
14. No, che d’altrui che di te [2:02]
15. Dagli amori flagellata [3:52]
Patricia Petibon (soprano), Paul Agnew (tenor)
Le Concert d’Astrée/Emmanuelle Haim
publ. 2002
Giulio Cesare
16. Aria: Cara speme, questo core [4:51]
17. Aria: Va tacito e nascosto [6:02]
David Daniels (counter-tenor)
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Sir Roger Norrington
publ. 1998
VIRGIN CLASSICS 6960352 [78:18 + 77:37]


Experience Classicsonline

The Handel anniversary year gives record companies an excuse to recycle material from their back catalogues to tempt new customers. This 2-CD set is however a little different insofar as most tracks are still quite fresh, recorded during the last decade and the late 1990s. Moreover many of the titles are directly culled from a similar set, issued in 2004 and entitled ‘Heavenly Handel’. It seems still to be available.

All compilations of this kind are primarily aimed at the general record-buying public and not specialist collectors. This one is as good an introduction to Handel and baroque opera in general as any. It also presents the music in historically authentic readings with specially trained singers and in many cases orchestras playing period instruments at baroque pitch. Even the oldest recordings, the excerpts from the thirty-year-old Admeto, are performed by baroque pioneers. The sound quality inevitably varies but the general level is high. Artistically and musically there isn’t one number that feels out of phase with the programme at large. Readers unfamiliar with period performances can rest assured that what is presented here fulfils all the requirements. The only thing one could have wished for was an informative and pedagogical essay placing the various items in their context and giving a brief outline of their function. What we get is a short biography on Handel, printed in pale yellow with brown background – one of the combinations least suitable for people with reduced eye-sight. Even the track-list has the same design. Very considerate!

There is no discernable logic in the ordering of the numbers, no chronology or thematic grouping, but it is good that the compilers have looked a bit further than the most obvious ‘hits’ and included also some music from non-operatic works.

The brightest shining star, and also the one most lavishly represented, is the superb counter-tenor David Daniels, who has claims to be the most complete representative of this vocal pitch: beautiful, expressive, technically accomplished and with a tone and style that should be accepted even by the most inveterate opponents of falsetto singing. He opens the first disc with two of the most famous Handel arias: a beautiful and expressive Ombra mai fu and an inward Dove sei from Rodelinda. It is lighter and more flexible than Kathleen Ferrier’s Decca recording in English, which was my first version of this evergreen. The versatile Véronique Gens is bright and clear and has warmth in the Armida excerpt. Philippe Jaroussky with a smaller and brighter voice than Daniels, sings the long aria from Ariodante and does so with melting beauty.

René Jacobs, today one of the foremost conductors in the baroque – and also Mozart – repertoire, is elegant in an aria from Admeto - one of the best things on this set. Contralto Stephanie Blythe was a revelation when I heard her in Verdi’s Requiem at the Royal Festival Hall almost a decade ago. Soon afterwards I bought her debut recital with arias by Bach and Handel. Where shall I fly? from Hercules is from that recital - it is emotional as well as dramatic with some fearsome runs. She hasn’t, unfortunately, been a very frequent visitor to the recording studios, which French counter-tenor Gérard Lesne has. His technical ability is stunning, which he demonstrates in the embellishments in the last section of the cantata Splenda l’alba in oriente. What he lacks in power and brilliance is more than compensated for by his elegance. Natalie Dessay, another fantastic French singer, is superb in the aria from Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno, that concludes the first disc.

There is just as much high quality singing on the second disc, where some of the highlights are Della Jones’s Verdi prati from Alcina, Arleen Augér’s Ombre pallide from the same opera and David Daniel in two arias from Giulio Cesare.

There are also some duets sprinkled in to achieve the greatest possible variation. Here Sandrine Piau’s bright tones contrast effectively against Sara Mingardo’s dark alto in Sorge il di from Aci, Galatea e Polifemo. Lynne Dawson more or less overshadows Ian Bostridge in their duet from L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato. On CD 2 Sandrine Piau and Gloria Banditelli are splendid in the duet from Rodrigo but here the compilers – or the editors of the booklet – must have nodded. The duet opens with a short recitative Dolcissima Esilena (CD 2 tr. 6) and then the duet proper Prendi l’alma e prendi il core has a separate track (7). In the track-list the duet is listed as track 6, which means that all the following tracks are one step behind. I have provided the correct list in the header of this review.

Even though I have a fairly large collection of Handel arias this set makes a fine addition and in many cases the readings included here must be ranked among the very best. It is still a pity that there isn’t more information on the music but for pure listening to some really great voices in a number of the finest baroque arias this set is more than worth its modest price. It retails at around €15. 

Göran Forsling 



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