London Calling!- Handel and his contemporaries George Frideric HANDEL(1685-1759) Amadigi di Gaula (HWV 11):
sinfonia (act 1) [4:04]
T'amai, quant'il mio cor, aria (Amadigi) [5:16]
Vado, corro al mio tesoro, aria (Amadigi) [3:06] Arcangelo CORELLI(1653-1713) Concerto grosso in D, op. 6,4 [9:57] George Frideric HANDEL Hercules (HWV 60):
sinfonia (act 3) [2:57]
Where shall I fly?, rec acc (Dejanira) [5:58] Francesco Maria VERACINI(1690-1768) Sonata for violin and bc in A, op. 2,9 [11:30] George Frideric HANDEL Theodora (HWV 68):
As with rosy steps, air (Irene) [7:56] Francesco GEMINIANI(1687-1762) Concerto grosso after Corelli No. 12 in d minor 'Follia'
[11:19] George Frideric HANDEL Amadigi di Gaula (HWV 11):
O rendetemi il mio bene, aria (Amadigi) [6:01]
sinfonia (act 3) [1:22]
Sento la gioia, aria (Amadigi) [5:02]
Tuva Semmingsen (mezzo)
Barokksolistene/Bjarte Eike (violin)
rec. September 2010, Kastelskirken, Copenhagen, Denmark
The subject of this disc is not all that original. Over the
years many recordings have been devoted to the popularity of
Italian music and the presence of Italian composers and performing
musicians in England in the early 18th century. Only recently
I reviewed a disc by the ensemble L'Avventura London (reviewed
here) and earlier a disc by the Italian ensemble Il Falcone
here). Their respective programmes were much more adventurous
than what is on offer here. "This recording unveils a portrait
of the chameleon Handel, his music and the music and musicians
he brought or attracted from the high baroque in Rome, and especially
the master musician himself, Corelli, his devoted protégé
Geminiani and the maverick virtuoso, Veracini", Malcolm Bruno
writes in the liner-notes. This could easily create some misunderstandings.
Corelli never set a foot on English soil and the presence of
Geminiani and Veracini in London was not due to any initiative
by Handel. Moreover, Veracini was not from Rome; he probably
never performed there. It is also not quite correct to call
Geminiani Corelli's protégé or even his pupil.
Geminiani claimed to be Corelli's pupil but there is no firm
documentary evidence for it. He greatly admired him, and as
Corelli's music was particularly popular in England it was logical
and profitable to present himself as such.
The great appreciation of Corelli's music in England justifies
the inclusion of one of his concerti grossi. The Concerto
grosso in D, op. 6,4 is given a good performance by Barokksolistene,
with Bjarte Eike and Milos Valent (violin), Judith-Maria Blomsterberg
(cello) and Allan Rasmussen (harpsichord) playing the concertino.
There is some nice ornamentation in the violin parts, especially
in the adagio. Geminiani's admiration for Corelli inspired him
to adapt the latter's sonatas for violin and bc op. 5 as concerti
grossi. These have not exactly escaped the attention of modern
performers, but unfortunately it is mostly the 12th concerto
from this set, an arrangement of the variations on La Follia,
which is played. That is also the case here. As good as the
performance is, this disc would have been of more interest if
another of these concerti grossi had been selected.
The disc of the ensemble Il Falcone which I mentioned above
paid attention to the influence of traditional music on composers
who were active in London, including those of Italian origin.
Scottish songs were especially popular, and the Italian violin
virtuoso Veracini also exploited their popularity by including
the ballad tune Tweed's Side in his Sonata in A,
op. 2,9, from his collection of 12 sonatas which were published
in 1744 in London and Florence under the title Sonate Accademiche.
It appears in the last movement under the title Scozzese,
in three sections of contrasting tempi. Bjarte Eike gives an
immaculate and musically convincing performance, supported by
cello, theorbo and harpsichord.
The core of this disc is Handel, the most dominant immigrant
from the European mainland. The selection of four arias and
two sinfonias from Amadigi di Gaula is understandable.
This opera was first performed in 1715 in the King's Theatre
at Haymarket. The four arias are very different in character;
unfortunately not all of them seem to suit Tuva Semmingsen's
voice. 'T'amai, quant'il mio cor' comes off well, with the first
lines sung in a nicely relaxed manner, and with a good contrast
between the various sections of the aria. 'Vado, corro al mio
tesore' is considerably more dramatic. Ms Semmingsen's voice
lacks the power and passion sufficient fully to express the
aria's content. At the end of the programme we return to the
same opera. The rather intimate 'O rendetemi il mio bene' is
done rather well. According to the liner-notes the last aria,
'Sento la gioia', is "jubilant", but the performance is too
subdued. Ms Semmingsen's voice is just not powerful enough.
This also damages the dramatic accompanied recitative of Dejanira,
'Where shall I fly?', from the oratorio Hercules. Much
better is 'As with rosy steps' fromTheodora. Here Handel
illustrates the text - "As with rosy steps the morn, advancing,
drives the shades of night" - with rising figures. Ms Semmingsen
and Barokksolistene emphasize this through an effective crescendo.
The selection of arias from two oratorios on English texts is
somewhat odd, considering the subject of the disc. These two
works date from a time when the 'Italomania' had passed its
This disc is not exactly what I had hoped. The programming isn’t
that imaginative and the performances of the vocal items are
not an unqualified success.
Johan van Veen
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