Ladies Sing Baroque

see end of review for track listing & performer details
rec. no dates and venues given. Published 1992 - 2011
Liner-notes but no sung texts
NAÏVE V5294 [57:48 + 58:24] 

Compilations of this kind tend to be aimed at a very wide general public. They reflect a view that the only way of catching the attention of that general public is to include as many well known songs and arias and as many famous singers as possible.
The baroque repertoire is different. There are a few standard arias (Ombra mai fu, Lascia ch’io pianga for instance) that everyone knows, and even they are not included here. The singers are all the crème de la crème among baroque specialists, but not many of them are household names to the general public. Magdalena Kozena should be, since she sings other repertoire as well, and Sandrine Piau and Sara Mingardo and the fabulous Natalie Stutzmann ... Be that as it may, what is important is that among these 23 songs and arias none is weak or indifferent and the singing is throughout on the highest possible level. Unless you, dear reader, belong to that, I hope, diminishing group of listeners for whom music history begins with Mozart, you should be able to find gems here that will last for many years to come. You will want to return to these discs time and again, play them for friends and visitors and spread the message in the neighbourhood: Come and listen! What a treasure trove there is here! When you feel you want to dig deeper in this repertoire Naïve have cleverly provided a catalogue at the end of the booklet with enticing cover photos of a bunch of discs worth seeking out.
It’s not just the songs and arias and the quality of the singing. The quality of the recordings, made during the last two decades, is superb and there are a number of formidable orchestras and ensembles - many with fanciful names - that play with such energy, such beauty, such rhythmic acuity that you will be delighted from the very first minute. There are liner-notes, well written, charming. They surely can give some further inspiration. True, there are no texts enclosed, and that’s a pity. But it is not necessary to know exactly what they sing about; the music in itself reveals a lot of the feelings expressed.
So far I haven’t written a word on the individual arias and I don’t intend to highlight each and everyone of them. Let me just pick some of my favourites - others will, I am sure, find their own favourites. Vivaldi (9) and Handel (6) quite unsurprisingly dominate the discs, always inventive, always original within the baroque conventions. The virtuoso Mottetto in furore iustissimae irae (CD 1 tr. 2) with Sandrine Piau in superb shape is irresistible, and so is Magdalena Kozena’s reading of the long aria from Juditha triumphans (CD 1 tr. 6) where the playing of the un-credited clarinettist is truly beautiful. Natalie Stutzmann’s dramatic aria from La verità in cimento (CD 1 tr. 11) is another treat. Brilliant and dramatic is also Nel profondo from Orlando furioso (CD 2 tr. 2) and Marie-Nicole Lemieux never lets things down. And while in Vivaldian mood I must mention the spectacular jealousy aria from Ottone in villa (CD 2 tr. 11) sung in breakneck tempo and with amazing coloratura from the fearless Julia Lezhneva.
Handel is always Handel and Sandrine Piau is truly wonderful in Se pieta from Giulio Cesare (CD 2 tr. 1). It was also a good idea to include a number of duets for greater variety and we also get some music from the early baroque, Monteverdi, Barbara Strozzi and Purcell, all of them worth a listen. The least known composer here is probably Porpora (CD 2 tr. 4) but he is no less accomplished than his better known colleagues and the aria from Polifemo is beautifully sung by Veronica Cangemi, a soprano I can’t recall having heard before.
The two best known arias here are probably those by Bach. The Agnus Dei from his Mass in B minor (CD 2 tr. 12) could hardly be bettered. Natalie Stutzmann has a marvellous voice! Erbarme Dich from St Matthews Passion (CD 1 tr. 9) is interesting insofar as it is here performed in an arrangement by Felix Mendelssohn and this is probably what the listeners heard in Berlin in 1829 when he revived the work after several decades of oblivion. Angela Kazimierczuk, another new acquaintance, sings it with warm timbre and the violin solo is lovely.
Do I seem too enthusiastic and too uncritical? Perhaps, but I don’t think so. In most compilations there are at least some weak points but here are none. Specialist collectors will probably already own several of the discs from where these excerpts have been culled, but for the rest of my readers this treasure trove is available, ready to provide spine-chilling and heart-rending listening experiences that may change your lives. Don’t miss the opportunity!
Göran Forsling 

Spine-chilling and heart-rending listening experiences that may change your lives. 

Track listing
CD 1
Giovanni Battista PERGOLESI (1710 - 1736)
1. Stabat mater dolorosa a due - Grave [5:10]
Sara Mingardo (contralto), Gemma Bertagnolli (soprano), Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini
Antonio VIVALDI (1678 - 1741)
2. Motetto in furore iustissimae irae - Allegro [4:31]
Sandrine Piau (soprano), Accademia Bizantina/Ottavio Dantone
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567 - 1643)
3. Lamento della Ninfa, “Amor” dicea [3:17]
Rosana Bertini (soprano), Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini
George Frideric HANDEL (1685 - 1759)
4. A Song for St Cecilia’s day, The Soft Complaining flute [6:30]
Lucy Crowe (soprano), Florian Cousin (flute), Les musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble/Marc Minkowski
5. Zeffiretti che sussurrate [5:04]
Sandrine Piau (soprano), Ann Hallenberg (mezzo-soprano), Modo Antiquo/Federico Maria Sardelli
6. Juditha triumphans, “Veni, sequere fida” [7:18]
Magdalena Kozena (soprano), Academia Montis regalis/Alessandro de Marchi
George Frideric HANDEL
Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno:
7. “Fido Specchio...” [3:46]
Deborah York (soprano)
8. Se la bellezza perde vahezza ...” [3:36]
Sara Mingardo (contralto)
Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 - 1750)
9. Saint Matthew Passion, “Erbarme Dich” [6:31]
Angela Kazimiercszuk (soprano), Chorus Musicus, Das neue Orchester/Christoph Spering
George Frideric HANDEL
10. Radamisto, “Vive in te” [7:51]
Sandrine Piau (soprano), Sara Mingardo (contralto), Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini
11. La verità in cimento, “Se l’acquisto di quell Soglio” [3:33]
Natalie Stutzmann (alto), Ensemble Matheus/Jean-Christophe Spinosi
CD 2
George Frideric HANDEL
1. Giulio Cesare in Egitto, “Se pieta” [8:50]
Sandrine Piau (soprano), Les Talens Lyriques/Christophe Rousset
2. Orlando furioso, “Nel profondo” [4:01]
3. Stabat mater dolorosa, largo [3:04]
Marie-Nicole Lemieux (contralto), Ensemble Matheus/Jean-Christophe Spinosi
Nicola PORPORA (1686 - 1768)
4. Polifemo, “Alto giove” [8:29]
Veronica Cangemi (soprano), Una Stella Ensemble
5. L’Olimpiade, “Gemo in un punto e fremo” [3:18]
Sara Mingardo (contralto), Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini
6. Orlando finto pazzo, “Anderò, volerò, griderò” [1:57]
Sonia Prina (contralto), Academia Montis regalis/Alessandro de Marchi
Barbara STROZZI (c.1619 - 1677)
7. Lamento: Lagrime mie, a che vi trattenete [7:29]
Anna Caterina Antonacci (soprano), Modo Antiquo/Federico Maria Sardelli
8. Arietta a voce sola, “Miei pensieri” [4:13]
Roberta Invernizzi (soprano), Bizzarrie Armoniche
Henry PURCELL (1659 - 1695)
9. “Bid the virtues” [3:35]
Patricia Petibon (soprano), Ensemble Amarillis
George Frideric HANDEL
10. Theodora, “To thee, thou glorious son of worth”[4:46]
Karina Gauvin (soprano), Marie-Nicole Lemieux (contralto), Il Complesso Barocco/Alan Curtis
11. Ottone in villa, “Gelosia” [3:16]
Julia Lezhneva (soprano), Il Giardino Armonico/Giovanni Antonini
Johann Sebastian BACH
12. Mass in B minor, “Ag