thoughtful, emotionally fleet and powerfully recorded
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Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759) The Handel Album
Artaserse/Philippe Jaroussky (counter-tenor and director)
Texts and translations included
rec. 2017, Église Nore-Dame du Liban, Paris ERATO 9029577445 [71:58]
It’s something of a surprise, perhaps, that Philippe Jaroussky has never made an all-Handel disc before now. But his reportorial decision-making has always been thoughtful and wide-ranging, and he has clearly never felt the need to enter the lists with yet another stand-alone album of highlight arias from the counter-tenorial songbook. And now, as he does so, he has chosen wisely and well, preferring to record some of the less explored examples from operas such as Imeneo, Radamisto, Riccardo primo, Amadigi di Gaula, Flavio and Ezio.
It’s wholly consonant with this reportorial selection, therefore, that his opening aria should be Se potessero i sospir' miei from Imeneo. Reminiscent of O Lord, whose mercies numberless it opens the programme not with a bang but with beautifully phrased elegance and thoughtful sensitivity; opportunities for vocal virtuosity will follow but it’s admirable of Jaroussky to programme things in this way. The tempest aria from Riccardo primo allows him to explore the chest register as well as to surmount the striking divisions required – he is never nonchalant in his virtuosity but always truly musical - whilst Artaserse, the operatic-sounding original instrument ensemble accompany with equal colour, dynamism and vivacity. It’s a feature of the disc that this band should prove so sonically exciting and rhythmically vivacious. He takes Radamisto’s Ombra cara with expressive breadth but at a relatively flowing tempo – the rhythms are so well-sprung – and even in the short, fast aria from the same work, Vile! Se mi dai vita where the music’s furious and dramatic element is hardly stinted there is no sense of vocal or orchestral over-statement. In the final example from this opera, Qual nave smarrita, one hears an interpretation of deft, focused tone, and true lyricism.
The accompanied recitatives are brought to appropriate life throughout. Perhaps the pick is Tolomeo’s Che più si tarda omai but in so excellent a disc as this, selecting a representative example is a job in itself. What’s unquestionably true is that Jaroussky and the band pay considerable attention to accompanying voices, to the blend of strings and winds – try Sussurrate, onde vezzose from Amadigi di Gaula – and it’s this, along with the deep pathos evoked in Tolomeo’s Stille amare, say, or the lulling beauty of Ezio’s Pensa a serbarmi, o cara that raise Jaroussky’s disc to a high interpretative level.
In book format, generously laid out, this disc will appeal unequivocally to Jaroussky’s many admirers – and Handel’s alike, I should think.
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