Monday, May 3, 2010

Handel on eMusic: Secular cantatas

Secular Cantatas

Apollo e Dafne; Crudel tiranno amor. Nancy Argenta (soprano); Michael George (bass); Collegium Musicum 90/Simon Standage [Chandos] 23.

Top marks from BBC Music: "Though both cantatas are relatively small-scale works, Handel’s zip and finesse make them a joy and the performances here come close to perfection. In a word, bliss!" Praise also from Gramophone: "superb Handel".

Apollo e Dafne; Silete venti. Karina Gauvin (soprano); Russell Braun (baritone); Les Violons du Roy/Bernard Labadie [Dorian] 23.

Classics Today: "Whether your interest is Handel, Baroque music, vocal music, or just plain great music, don't miss this one". gfhandel.org gave it 9, saying "for both works and as an inspired coupling, this one is definitely a must-have". However, Gramophone was less impressed: despite a "dashing performance" of Apollo e Dagne, "In general, however, this performance does not really succeed in capturing the richness and the variety of this delectable work"; for Silete venti, "the tempos and the character of the movements sometimes seemed slightly off-centre".

Apollo e Dafne; The Alchemist. Olga Pasichnyk (soprano); Robert Pomakov (bass); European Union Baroque Orchestra/Roy Goodman [Naxos] 29.

"Musically, this is a good disc; the two works fit well together. But the voice of bass Robert Pomakov is disappointing, in Apollo e Dafne, although soprano Olga Pasichnyk is excellent. A worthwhile recording, though not excellent" - MusicWeb. BBC Music gave it 3-4: "The youngsters of the EUBO do a fair job without ever sounding completely at ease with the music. This criticism extends to the singers, particularly to bass Robert Pomakov... Certainly this version of Apollo e Dafne sounds lacklustre compared to Chandos’s 1995 recording". A review on Andante.com called it "a worthy addition to the catalogue" and praised the orchestra, conductor, and soprano but complained about the "grumbling and approximate Apollo". Penguin Guide gave it *** - "a lively reading of this dramatic cantata".

Apollo e Dafne; Oboe concerto in G minor. Judith Nelson (soprano); David Thomas (bass); Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra/Nicholas McGegan [Harmonia Mundi] 16.

No reviews found.

Clori, Tirsi e Fileno. Jill Feldman (soprano); Lorraine Hunt (mezzo); Drew Minter (countertenor); Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra/Nicholas McGegan [Harmonia Mundi] 29.

Gramophone said "this is a delightful disc that I can recommend with no real reservations", while

"Cantatas and sonatas" - Lungi da me, pensier tiranno!; Siete rose ruggiadose; Udite il mio consiglio; Carco sempre di gloria; plus Oboe sonatas in F and C minor. Derek Lee Ragin (countertenor); Ensemble Divitia Cologne [Channel] 6.

Praised by Gramophone: "an enjoyable recital and a thoughtfully constructed programme".

Dalla guerra amorosa; Mi palpita il cor; German arias nos.1, 6 & 8; Tacete, ohime, tacete (Italian duet); other works. John Shirley-Quirk (bass-baritone); Yvonne Kenny (soprano); various instrumentalists [Meridian] 24.

No reviews found.

"Delirio amoroso" - Clori, mia bella Clori; Armida abbandonata; Delirio amoroso. Ann Murray (mezzo); The Symphony of Harmony and Invention/Harry Christophers [Coro] 27.

Giving it 9 out of 10, gfhandel.org called this "a disc which is notable for its natural and lyrical approach. Few singers can master the sudden contrasts between pathos and high melodrama as effective as Ann Murray". BBC Music gave the recording full marks when it was originally released by Collins Classics, saying "Murray sings superlatively, portraying the variously distraught lovers in a captivating display of vocal power and finesse. With spirited support from Harry Christophers and the orchestra, she makes these long-neglected gems sparkle anew"; the magazine Fanfare said "Murray makes no pretence of being an early-music singer, but she brings considerable style to these splendid examples of Handel’s burgeoning flair and invention. The voice itself sounds lovely, and it is produced with an enviable ease... Non-specialist listeners are therefore likely to find much to enjoy, although they may note that Christophers’s direction is at times understated and uncharacteristically sleepy. Those to whom sense of period style is of greater importance are likely to be concerned particularly by Murray’s uncontrolled vibrato, which can become very pronounced". Gramophone called it "A very attractive disc, marvellous music, finely performed" and said "Christophers paces the music well".

"Il duello amoroso" - Amarilli vezzosa; Nel dolce tempo; Vedendo Amor; Mi palpita il cor; Trio sonata op.2/1. Andreas Scholl (countertenor); Accademia Bizantina/Ottavio Dantone [Harmonia Mundi] 18.

Gramophone said Scholl "sings with all his customary liquid beauty of tone... eloquence of phrase and expressive immediacy... Pleasure in this delectable recital is completed by the zestful, imaginatively coloured playing of Accademia Bizantina". BBC Music gave it 5-4: "Scholl clearly relishes the young Handel’s unbridled exuberance". It also got 9/10 from Classics Today, 10/10 from Classics Today France, and 5-5-5 from Klassik.com. Fanfare called it "a splendid addition to the catalog, and a required acquisition for all Handelians", and it was also praised by American Record Guide. It won the Nereffid's Guide Award for best-reviewed Baroque Vocal album of 2007.

"English cantatas". Nicki Kennedy (soprano); Sally Bruce-Payne (mezzo); The Brook Street Band [Avie] 24.

These works are comprised of arias from some of Handel's operas; Handel may or may not have been involved in their creation. BBC Music gave it 3-3, saying the singers "sing with an appealing appropriateness of scale... the Band is as deliciously poised and pertinent as ever". Gramophone described it as "A curio, but one full of Handelian pleasures". MusicWeb said "The results are not as great as some of the original Italian chamber cantatas. But when performed as winningly as they are here they have great appeal". Fanfare said "The performances are generally enjoyable... a must for dedicated Handelians, and the three English cantatas make interesting listening".

"Fedel e Costante" - Agrippina; Nel dolce dell'obblio; Tu fedel? Tu costante?; Armida abbandonata. Elin Manahan Thomas (soprano); principals from The Symphony of Harmony and Invention [Coro] 25.

3-4 from Classics Today France gave it just a 5/8.

"Handel in Italy" - Notte placida e cheta; Un'alma innamorata; Figlio d'alte speranze; Agrippina condotta a morire; Concerto a 4 in D (attrib Telemann). Emma Kirkby (soprano); London Baroque [BIS] 24.

Top marks and a BBC Music magazine Choice: "Outstanding". American Record Guide said "Kirkby still sounds the same, with her wonderfully bright voice, impeccable technique, and unflappable taste", while Gramophone said "indeed she is on superb form". Klassik Heute gave it 9-9-9, and Klassik.com gave it 4-4-4.

"Handel in Rome" - Mi palpita il cor; Pastorella vagha bella; Gloria; Harpsichord suite no.3. Julianne Baird (soprano); Marshall Coid (countertenor); The Queen's Chamber Band/Elaine Comparone [Lyrichord] 20.

Fanfare said "the performances are only pleasant... An agreeable disc, then, but no match for other versions of the same works".

Italian cantatas - Son gelsomino; Figli del mesto cor; Dolc’è pur d’amor l’affanno; Clori degli occhi miei; Ho fuggito Amore; Irene, idolo mio; La solitudine: L’aure grate; Nel dolce tempo. Jeffrey Gall (countertenor); David Schraeder; John Mark Rozendaal [Centaur] 8.

Fanfare said "Having had occasion to admire Jeffrey Gall in a number of past recordings, I feel rather guilty for not enjoying his work more this time around. There are many telling and indeed touching moments in these performances, but though the singing is always worthy—and served by indubitable intelligence and taste—it seems to me only intermittently beautiful".

"Italian cantatas and other works" - Mi palpita il cor; Irene, idolo mio; Lungi da me, pensier tiranno!; Fra pensieri quel pensiero; Harpsichord suite in E, HWV430; Flute sonata in D, HWV378. Nicole Lemieux (contralto); Luc Beauséjour (harpsichord); etc [Analekta] 28.

Notes here. This got a 10/10 from ClassicsToday, and on MusicWeb it was described as "excellent". Gramophone wasn't quite so impressed: "Lemieux isn’t perhaps totally at home in the expression of Handel’s stormy music". gfhandel.org gave it a 7.

"Love lost and found" - Lungi da voi, che siete poli; Figli del mesto cor; Fra pensieri quel pensiero; Mi palpita il cor; plus some arias. Patrice Djerejian (alto); English Chamber Orchestra/Philip Ledger [MSR] 22.

No reviews found.

"Scorned & Betrayed" - Agrippina condotta a morire, La Lucrezia, Armida abbandonata, and two trio sonatas. Melissa Fogarty (soprano); ensemble [Albany] 20.

I couldn't find reviews of this, although on her web site there's a quote from an American Record Guide review saying "Fogarty is a singer of quality, clean, accurate, and stylish".

"Tra le fiamme" - Tra le fiamme, Notte placida e cheta, plus Trio sonatas op.2/5, op.5/4, op.5/7. Catherine Bott (soprano); Purcell Quartet [Chandos] 22.

Positive review from Gramophone: "Catherine Bott, whose voice has gained in warmth and colour in recent years while remaining clear and firm in focus, sings them very responsively, both to the words and to the sense of Handel’s lines... In the trio sonatas there is some splendidly athletic playing from the violins of the Purcell Quartet, who play with their usual spruce rhythms and conversational give and take". Top marks from BBC Music, and Fanfare said "for its terms of overall programming and for the sheer beauty of the performances, this new entry on Chandos's Chaconne label takes its place immediately as a top recommendation". Penguin Guide gave it *** - "An entirely delightful recital", with the cantatas "ravishingly sung".

Tra le fiamme; Harp concerto, op.4 no.6; plus music by JS Bach. Nuria Rial (soprano); Giovanna Pessi (harp); Ricercar Consort/Philippe Pierlot [Mirare] 22.

No reviews found.

"The Virtuoso Handel" - Un' alma innamorata, Chi rapi la pace al core?, La Lucrezia, and other vocal pieces, plus a viola da gamba sonata. Patrice Michaels (soprano); Chicago Baroque Ensemble/John Mark Rozendaal [Cedille] 25.

Classics Today gave this 7/9: "a pleasant enough Handel program", although the reviewer comments on "Michaels' technically proficient but interpretively cautious, uninvolving performances". The highlight is the viola da gamba sonata, although it's possible that this is in fact not by Handel but by Johann Michael Leffloth, or perhaps not him either! One Fanfare reviewer said "this enjoyable disc is as notable for its lyricism and warmth of expression as it is for the more obvious kind of dazzle", and another called it "An agreeable and generous selection that is well worth investigating, particularly by Handelians wishing to hear two rare chamber cantatas". Sleeve notes are available via the Cedille catalogue entry.


Duets and Trios with Continuo

"Blind Love, Cruel Beauty" - 8 Italian duets. Favella Lyrica [Koch] 8.

Gramophone said "Pamela Murray and Pamela Dellal are both accomplished singers... Both use rather more vibrato than might be ideal for this music. They also sing in a rather heavy and sustained style... The music can’t fail to be enjoyable, but could have been rather more so".


Songs and Hymns

"Flaming Rose" - German arias; Trio sonatas op.2/1, op.2/4. Julianne Baird (soprano); Tempesta di Mare [Chandos] 18.

Mixed praise from Gramophone: "enjoyment was mitigated by her cultivation of what she evidently considers “authentic” Baroque style: her tendency to stress strong beats, to swell into notes rather than cultivating a seamless legato, and to taper phrase endings in a crooning, unsupported tone. Too many words get lost. Those who react more favourably to such Baroquisms can be assured of smiling, spirited performances". One Fanfare reviewer didn't like it: "a disc that begins promisingly if not in a scintillating fashion, but which, instead of building emotionally, conversely heads the other way (except for Singe, Seele), towards ennui and dispassionate performance". However, a second reviewer said "this is a delightful and satisfying disc on its own terms". Klassik.com gave it 3-3-4 (interpretation, sound, value to repertoire). American Record Guide called it "an attractive enough release on its own terms" but said the pieces received generally "superficial treatment".

German arias, plus Nel dolce dell'oblio; Acis and Galatea - 'Hush, ye pretty warbling quire'; Trio sonata HWV386a. Christina Högman (soprano); I Quattro Temperamenti [BIS] 15.

Gramophone said "Tempos are well judged, ensemble is excellent and ornamentation is stylish and engaging. Högman has a fresh but mature-sounding voice with an expressive warmth which suits the music and its texts".

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