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George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1750)
As Steals the Morn … - Arias and Scenes for Tenor
Track listing below review
Mark Padmore (tenor)
Guest appearances from Lucy Crowe (soprano) and Robin Blaze (counter-tenor)
The English Concert/Andrew Manze
rec. October 2006, St Jude’s on the Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London
HARMONIA MUNDI HMX2907422 [77:11]

Harmonia Mundi have re-released, at budget price, Mark Padmore’s excellent Handel recital, and we should be grateful to them for doing so. This disc was recorded when Padmore’s voice was lighter than it currently is, and probably a touch more subtle, too; certainly more supple. Hearing him in this repertoire is a delight, reminding you of what a great Handelian he is, and of how well this music suits him. He demonstrates a lovely feel for the music in all its moods while beiug brilliantly sensitive to the text and word meaning, too.

The opening aria from Alceste has a gorgeous lilt to it, and Where’er you walk is especially beguiling, showing a perfect blend of orchestra and singer with perfect empathy for what they are performing. Next, Urne voi demonstrates strident vocal acting, as does Bajazet’s death scene from Tamerlano. This is very well done — if somewhat over-acted towards the end — though there isn't much to be gained by including the recitative that precedes it.

Scenes from Samson chart the character’s development very well, from the dark uncertainty of Total Eclipse through the sense of betrayal so acute to Your charms to ruin lead the way. The journey culminates in the recovery of his sense of his divine mission and surpassing peace in Thus when the sun. A similar charting takes place in the arias from Jephtha, including a gorgeous performance of Waft her, angels, which is meltingly beautiful.

Esther’s Tune Your Harps is delightfully restrained, a beautiful blend of voice, pizzicato and oboe, while Grimoaldo’s Pastorello from Rodelinda is full of gentle longing but it's always implicit that this longing — from, after all, a villain — will remain unfulfilled. The disc ends with a beautiful, symbiotic performance of the title track with Lucy Crowe contributing pearly brightness in her role as special guest soprano.

Throughout, Padmore sings with beauty of tone and generosity of feeling. His ornamentations are always sensitive and never intrusive, and equal plaudits should go to the transparent playing of The English Concert and Andrew Manze's similarly sensitive direction. The only disadvantage with this being a budget issue is that there are no sung texts included, but the diction is so good that you will scarcely need them.

Simon Thompson
Track listing
: Act IV, Enjoy the sweet Elysian grove [5:31]
Semele: Act II, Scene 3, Where'er you walk [5:15]
Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno: Part I, Urne voi [3:28]
Tamerlano: Act I, Scene 1, Forte e lieto [6:09]
Tamerlano: Act III, Scene 10, Oh per me lieto, avventuroso giorno! [3:53]
Tamerlano: Act III, Scene 10, Figlia mia / Tu, spietato [6:00]
Samson: Act I, Scene 2, Total eclipse [4:38]
Samson: Act II, Scene 2, Did love constrain thee? [0:33]
Samson: Act II, Scene 2, Your charms to ruin led the way [3:19]
Samson: Act III, Scene 1, Let but that spirit / Then shall I make [0:39]
Samson: Act III, Scene 1, Thus when the sun from's wat'ry bed [5:28]
Rodelinda: Act III, Scene 6, Fatto inferno [3:23]
Rodelinda: Act III, Scene 6, Pastorello d'un povero armento [5:12]
Esther: Act I, Scene 2, Tune your harps [4:14]
Jephtha: Act II, Scene 2, Heav'n smiles once more [0:33]
Jephtha: Act II, Scene 2, His mighty arm [5:59]
Jephtha: Act III, Scene 1, Waft her, angels [5:39]
L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, ed il Moderato, Part III: As steals the morn [6:37]



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