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Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
rec. 1958-66, London
No texts
ELOQUENCE 482 4759 [82:34 + 62:34]

I reviewed the Bernadette Greevy-Forbes Robinson element of this twofer back in 2002, with the proviso that three of the bass’s arias are making first international release status in this latest release and weren’t present on the earlier disc. To add to the pleasures, some very well-known examples of Joan Sutherland’s art are included - indeed some of these are pieces that launched her into celebrity orbit – and there’s an aria apiece from William Herbert and Hervey Alan.

Decca was long active in promoting Handel’s music on disc. Back in 1929 they’d released Ernest Ansermet’s set of the Concerto grossi Op.6 with the so-called Decca Symphony Orchestra, a pick-up band led by William Primrose, reprised just under a decade later when they re-recorded the set but this time with Boyd Neel and his orchestra. They later recorded Boult’s Messiah and also recorded single-singer recitals or compilations, of which this twofer presents a continuing legacy.

In writing about that previous release (see review) I referred to it as a stalwart disc, rather preferring Greevy’s contribution to that of Robinson. I would certainly not dissent from my admiration for the contralto’s textual awareness and sensitivity but think I rather undersold Robinson. Yes, I still think some of his tone production lacking focus and he can be a bit too blustery on occasion but I was right to focus on Leave me, loathsome light, which I have replayed many times over the intervening period finding something deeply moving in his eloquent and unforced singing. The additions include a genially voiced O ruddier than the cherry, a confident Si, tra i ceppi from Bernice and Arm, arm ye Brave, from Judas Maccabaeus. It’s slightly surprising that this hasn’t seen greater publicity as it was once on a World of Handel LP, alongside Greevy’s Dove sei.

Other newcomers include William Herbert’s Esther aria, Tune your harps. The Australian tenor was a well-known Bach Evangelist at the time and though one can hear him ‘gearing up’ in places – very occasionally effortfully - it’s strong singing. The English bass Hervey Alan turns in a solid Turn not, O Queen, they face away from the same work.

The sextet of Sutherland pieces, with their various accompaniments, reveal their disparate origins. There is a brace apiece from Alcina, Giulio Cesare and Samson – the first named work with that pioneering scholar Anthony Lewis directing - and the remainder with Richard Bonynge with the exception of Let the Bright Seraphim, which derives from her famous recording with Pradelli directing and Harry Dilley wielding the brass.

The notes are concisely informative and the remastering by Paschal Bryne seems to have been cut higher than the Forbes-Greevy reissue and with a tighter perspective so that, for instance, Robinson’s consonants and sibilants are audible as they were not quite before.

Jonathan Woolf

Track listing
Vieni, o figlio, e mi consola (from Ottone) [6:47]
Voglio dire (from Partenope) [5:26]
Convey me to some peaceful shore (from Alexander Balus) [3:38]
Verdi prati (from Alcina) [3:01]
La speranza e giunta in porto (from Ottone) [3:40]
Cangio d'aspetto (from Admeto) [5:10]
Dove sei, amato bene? (from Rodelinda) [4:15]
Lascia ch'io pianga (from Rinaldo) [4:44]
Care selve (from Atalanta) [2:35]
Come la rondinella (from Clori, Tirsi e Fileno) [4:56]
Bernadette Greevy (contralto)
Tornami a vagheggiar (from Alcina) [5:14]
Ombre pallide (from Alcina) [10:46]
V' adoro, pupille (from Giulio Cesare) [4:40]
Da tempeste il legno infranto (from Giulio Cesare) [5:23]
Samson: With plaintive note [5:11]
Samson: Let the bright seraphim [5:52]
Joan Sutherland (soprano)
Esther: Tune your harps to cheerful strains [5:38]
William Herbert (tenor)
Esther: Turn not, O Queen [3:24]
Hervey Alan (bass)
Alexander's Feast: Revenge, revenge, Timotheus cries [8:02]
Ezio (or Aetius): Se un bell'ardire [3:41]
Susanna: Peace crown’d with roses [2:56]
Hercules: The God of Battle [3:50]
O ruddier than the Cherry (from Acis and Galatea) [4:33]
Theodora: Wide spread his name [2:30]
Judas Maccabaeus: Arm, arm ye brave [5:05]
Si, tra i ceppi (from Berenice) [4:42]
Semele: Leave me, loathsome light [6:20]
Pensa a chi geme (from Alcina) [5:02]
Samson: Honour and arms scorn such a foe [5:55]
Forbes Robinson (bass)
Bernadette Greevy (contralto)/Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Raymond Leppard (director and harpsichord)
Joan Sutherland (soprano)/Philomusica of London/Anthony Lewis (Alcina)
New Symphony Orchestra of London/Richard Bonynge (Giulio Cesare; Samson With plaintive note)
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden/Francesco Molinari Pradelli (Samson: Let the Bright Seraphim)
William Herbert (tenor)/Philomusica of London/Anthony Lewis
Hervey Alan (bass)/Philomusica of London/Anthony Lewis
Forbes Robinson (bass)/Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Philip Ledger (director and harpsichord)



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