Georg Friedrich HANDEL (1685-1759)
Concerto grosso op. 3/2 HWV 313 [10:36]
Apollo e Dafne HWV 122 Parte prima [22:0l]
Overture HWV 336 [3:51]
Suite HWV 352 zu Die verwandelte Dafne [3:41]
Suite HWV 353 zu Die verwandelte Dafne [4:26]
Suite HWV 354 zu Der begluckte Florindo [3:33]
Apollo e Dafne HWV 122 Parte seconda [2l:22]
Chaconne aus ‘Terpsichore’ HWV 8b [4:53]
Andrea Lauren Brown (soprano), Dominik Worner (bass-baritone), Cantus Firmus Consort/Andreas Reize
rec. 13-16 August 2008, Kleiner Konzertsaal Solothurn. DDD
CPO 777 228-2 [74:41]

Andreas Reize and the Cantus Firmus Consort here present a performance of Handel’s dramatic cantata Apollo e Dafne, the two parts of which have been interspersed with contemporary instrumental compositions. Thus, the disc opens with a Concerto Grosso, then the first part of Apollo e Dafne is followed, bizarrely enough, by an Overture which in turn gives way to three orchestral suites, after which the second part of the cantata takes place, before a Chaconne concludes proceedings.
My first question was why these extra movements had been inserted. Surely the whole point of the dramatic cantata form is that it presents an alternative narrative structure from that delineated by the alternating recitative/aria model of cantate and opere at the time, thus enabling a dramatic thrust which would not otherwise be present. Is it really appropriate to hold up that dramatic thrust by the insertion of gratuitous material? The notes shed no light on this, giving no explanation of why this material has been included, other than an attitude which may be effectively summarised as “it seemed like a good idea”. Beyond this failure to explain a puzzling programmatic decision, I was not entirely convinced with the scholarship of the notes, nor by the conclusions the author of the notes draws; for example, regarding the length of the performance of Apollo e Dafne in the presence of Queen Anne.
The performances themselves also slightly disappointed. Apollo (Dominik Worner) has a rather lowing tone; not especially heroic in timbre. As for this Dafne, there’s a tense quality to Andrea Lauren Brown’s voice and it’s curiously inconsistent in timbre. Neither soloist responds particularly well to the text. Andrea Lauren Brown is especially guilty here. The Italian pronunciation is suspect, particularly in faster tempos, and I found there to be a slight lack of precision in the placement of consonants. The playing from the Cantus Firmus Consort is on the bland side - the performers failing to show much musical imagination and with clichéd use of dynamics. Finally, the recording is let down by a ‘bathroom’-like acoustic.
On the whole, not a disc that shows Handel at his best.
Em Marshall-Luck  

Not a disc that shows Handel at his best.