Georg Frideric HANDEL(1685
- 1759) Complete Cantatas - Vol. 4 Clori, mia bella Clori (HWV 92)* [14:32] Sans y penser (Cantate française) (HWV 155)*/** [10:04] Clori, vezzosa Clori (HWV 95)* [5:34] Pensieri notturni di Filli (Nel dolce dell'oblio)
(HWV 134)** [6:50] Lungi n'andò Fileno (HWV 128)* [13:27]
Stefanie True (*), Klaartje van Veldhoven (**) (soprano)
Contrasto Armonico/Marco Vitale
rec. April 2010, Oude-Katholieke Kerk, Delft, Netherlands. DDD
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94257 [50:29]
Handel's oeuvre comprises a large number of chamber
cantatas. These are mostly scored for soprano and basso continuo,
sometimes with the addition of one or two treble instruments.
A large part of this repertoire is hardly known; only a handful
of cantatas are regularly performed and recorded. Among them
is one which is also included in this recording of Contrasto
Armonico: Pensieri notturni di Filli, better known
with its first words Nel dolce dell'oblio. One
of the reasons for its popularity is the obbligato part for
Some years ago Marco Vitale started a project of recording all
the cantatas Handel wrote during his stay in Italy, from 1707
to 1711. He composed more than one hundred of them, so there
is still a long way to go. This fourth volume presents five
which were written in Rome, where Handel worked in 1707 and
1708. It is assumed that they were all composed for performance
during the musical entertainments which were organized by the
Marquis Francesco Maria Ruspoli. Ellen T. Harris, in her liner-notes,
sees also a connection between the two cantatas about Clori.
The overlap in subject between them "suggests the possibility
that both works refer to a specific couple known to the contemporary
Roman audience. If so, this couple's identity has been
lost in time".
They both date from 1708. Clori, vezzosa Clori (HWV
95) has two pairs of recitative and aria. The arias are strongly
contrasting: in the first Handel makes use of chromaticism to
express Clori's pain of being separated from her beloved.
In the closing aria the beloved expresses his feelings: it is
impossible to forget Clori. This aria takes the form of a minuet.
Clori, mia bella Clori (HWV 92) is different: it includes
four pairs of recitative and aria, and the scoring is extended
with two violins which Handel uses in various ways. In the first
aria silences reflect its sad character, in the third pauses
and Seufzer depict Clori's weeping. In most
arias the violins play in unison; only in the last are their
parts split, and here Handel creates a four-part texture.
The closing cantata, Lungi n'andò Fileno (HWV
128), is the most gloomy of this disc. The first recitative
begins with the words: "Far, far Fileno has gone, Fileno,
the better part of my life". The first aria says: "Yes,
weep, O my eyes, and at the sound of your tears let my heart
respond with sighs". Through the slow tempo (largo), shifts
in rhythm and bold harmonic progressions the sadness of the
protagonist is eloquently exposed. The second recitative states
that endless weeping doesn’t alleviate the pain, and therefore
"I wish to live no longer", as the closing aria says.
Handel uses dissonances and wide leaps in the vocal part to
express the desperation of the protagonist.
The most remarkable cantata is Sans y penser (HWV 155),
the only one of Handel’s on a French text. It is not exactly
known why Handel composed this cantata, but a bill for copying
it has been found in the account books of Marquis Ruspoli in
September 1707. It begins with a chanson, a kind of
song without a da capo, which is followed by three
pairs of récitatif and air. The two characters
are Silvie and Tirsis: Silvie has made Tirsis fall in love with
her, but she doesn't mean it that seriously. Tirsis prefers
a lasting love over a short affair and the cantata closes with
an aria in which he states that drinking is better than the
"faithlessness of an ungrateful shepherdess". As Ellen
Harris says, it is "a true French cantata, rather than
simply a cantata in the Italian style but with a French text
This is the first volume from this series I have heard. I have
become acquainted with Contrasto Armonico through its recording
of Handel's serenata Aci, Galatea e Polifemo
here). I was quite impressed with the way Marco Vitale and
his colleagues interpreted this piece. My positive impressions
are confirmed with this disc. Stefanie True has developed into
a very fine Handel singer. No wonder she won first prize in
the London Handel Singing Competition. Her delivery is very
good, and she makes the most of the recitatives, with the appropriate
rhythmic freedom. There is also no lack of expression in the
arias. The last cantata, Lungi n'andò Fileno,
gives a pretty good idea of her interpretational skills. Klaartje
van Veldhoven also has a nice voice, but a bit lighter; in Sans
y penser there is no difficulty telling them apart. I have
reservations, though. It is nicely sung but it doesn't
sound French enough to my ears. Ms Van Veldhoven delivers a
good account of Pensieri notturni di Filli, but could
have done more in the B section of the closing aria. Let me
not forget to mention one of the great assets of this disc:
the stylish ornamentation. There are no exaggerated cadenzas
nor is there any rewriting of complete lines in the dacapos.
What a relief!
A project like this can't be appreciated enough. Handel
is generally considered a master in depicting human emotions,
and that clearly comes to the fore in his cantatas. The performers
have managed to display that quality in these recordings.
Johan van Veen
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