Arianna Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725) L’Arianna
(Ebra d’amor fuggia), H.242 (probably 1707) [23:12]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759) Ah! crudel, nel pianto mio, HWV78 (1707?) [29:14]
Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809) Arianna a Naxos,Hob.XXVIb:2 (1789) (arr. Neukomm) [19:36]
Kate Lindsey (mezzo)
Arcangelo/Jonathan Cohen (harpsichord & chamber organ)
Texts and translations included
rec. August 2019, St Augustine’s Church, London. DDD.
Reviewed as lossless press preview download.
The fate of Ariadne, abandoned by Theseus after helping him to escape the
Labyrinth, has often inspired composers. In addition to the three works
here, Monteverdi composed an opera on the subject in 1608, now lost, though Ariadne’s Lament has been preserved, thanks to its popularity – the
composer even adapted it as a lament for the Virgin Mary. Conradi (Ariadne) and Richard Strauss (Ariadne auf Naxos) turned her
fate into operas and Handel’s rival, Porpora, composed Arianna a Naxos, an aria from which was included in a recent recital
on the Arcana label (Duel, A461 –
There is only one other current recording of the Scarlatti, from Adriana
Fernandez on CPO (7777482, with other Scarlatti secular cantatas). I don’t
think there is any reason to prefer the CPO, other than the inclusion of
other Scarlatti works.
Handel’s setting, probably also from 1707, can be found on a highly
recommendable recording from Raffaella Milanesi, La Risonanza and Fabio
Bonizzoni, on a single album of Cantatas for Cardinal Ottoboni
(Glossa GCD921523) or in an 8-hour collection of Handel’s Italian Cantatas
(GCD921528). The latter can be obtained for less than £40 on CD, so why
does the least expensive lossless download cost over £55?
The whole of this Glossa series has elicited the highest praise – one
volume was my Recording of the Month, but that stands for the whole series.
If you believe Handel’s music from his Italian period to be preferable to
that of his older contemporary Scarlatti – by no means an untenable
position – you will prefer the Glossa recording, which also includes some
other fine music. Indeed, there’s much to be said for obtaining the whole
I expected to have no problem in making the Glossa my top recommendation,
but that was before I heard what Kate Lindsey, Arcangelo and Jonathan Cohen
make of all three works. I expected much of the latter two, but I’d missed
out on Lindsey’s earlier recording for Alpha, Thousands of Miles
(Alpha 272: a double Recording of the Month –
review). That featured very different, twentieth-century, repertoire, and I
understand that the Composer in Strauss’s Ariadne is also one of her
regular roles, but you would hardly imagine, after hearing the new
recording, that she was anything other than a baroque specialist. Until,
that is, you hear the Haydn and discover that she is equally at home in the
music of the classical period.
The Handel, almost inevitably, sent me back to Dame Janet Baker, with the
ECO and Raymond Leppard (Bach and Handel Solo Cantatas and Arias, Warner
Gemini 3977322, download only). It’s not the only one of Baker’s virtues
that her voice is ideal for Handel’s tragic heroines – and heroes – in that
it possesses a tinge of melancholy even in, for example, her classic
recording of Elgar’s Sea Pictures. Like the Elgar, her Handel should
be permanently available; indeed, I wish there were more of it, like her
embodiment of the mad scene from Orlando. And though Raymond
Leppard’s accompaniment in baroque music could sometimes be wayward, he
directs the ECO very well here. He was credited with editing the Handel
works on this recording, but without tampering in the same way that he did
with Cavalli’s operas, apart from some not undue decoration of the
The HMV recording was released soon after Baker, the ECO and Leppard had
performed the music at the Queen Elizabeth Hall – a memorable occasion, by
all accounts, and a memorable recording. The opening Sonata leaves very
little to be desired, even by modern historically informed standards, and
the first aria is emotionally charged in a way that one would think could
not be matched, let alone bettered, though it might be thought that the
tempo was a shade on the slow side to match that emotional charge.
It’s predictable that Arcangelo and Jonathan Cohen take the Sonata a shade
faster and sound slightly lighter than Leppard’s ECO, but it comes as a
surprise that Lindsey and Cohen take slightly longer than their
predecessors in the opening aria. The contrast between the bright major-key
opening and the following minor-key aria is all the greater.
Lindsey sounds quite different from Baker in a way that’s hard to describe;
what can be said, however, is that the emotional commitment is different
but equally valid and that, for all the extra half a minute, the emotion is
never strained. And without suggesting that Janet Baker sounds unvaried
here – or ever – I have to admit that Kate Lindsey injects more variety
into the music. It’s certainly not ‘game, set and match’ to the new team,
but it’s probably ‘advantage’ in their favour. Any recording that can do
that really deserves high praise, especially as both Baker and Lindsey are singing a
work that lies a little higher than usual for their voice types. There’s
perhaps more vibrato than would suit all tastes, but there’s plenty of
quiet stillness, too.
The change of style from Handel is very marked, but the music is equally
intense, as is the performance. In places the music sounds almost like a
Mozart opera, no doubt enhanced by the dramatic quality of the singing.
Arleen Auger’s performance with the Handel and Haydn Society conducted by
Christopher Hogwood comes with Berenice che fai? and the ‘Nelson’
Mass, a less tempting coupling, since for most of us it involves
duplicating the ‘Nelson’ Mass – a work that’s available in good recordings at all
prices – even though it offers a well filled all-Haydn album (Decca
4489832, download only).
Auger sings beautifully and is well accompanied, but Lindsey is altogether
more varied and dramatic. The smaller-scale accompaniment is more effective
than on Decca, rounding off an album which I thought very impressive, and
which encourages me to seek out more of her recordings. With very good
sound quality – my wav copy offers the equivalent of CD sound, though there
are also mp3 and 24-bit versions – this could well become part of my
regular listening. Very informative notes enhance the value of this
beautifully varied and dramatic singing of passionate music of loss.
Founding Editor Rob Barnett Editor in Chief
John Quinn Seen & Heard Editor Emeritus Bill Kenny MusicWeb Webmaster
David Barker Postmaster
Jonathan Woolf MusicWeb Founder Len Mullenger