French soprano Sandrine Piau is a singer with formidable technique and exceptional musical sensibility. She’s proven this on many previous recordings, but if you’re in doubt, just listen to the way she dispatches the insanely fast roulades in the opening aria “Disserratevi, o porte d’Averno” from the oratorio La Resurrezione. Yes, the speed may be a little excessive and “show-off-y”, but Piau manages it with seeming ease, turning what could have been just an impressive but musically pointless theatrical stunt into a thrilling four-and-a-half-minute study of unadorned, honest vocal virtuosity.
The rest of this thoughtfully programmed Handel recital is designed to show various and varied examples of the composer’s treatment ofRead more the soprano voice in both oratorio and ode, and Piau and her very capable partners (including on one track, tenor Topi Lehtipuu, and on several others oboist Molly Marsh—both memorable names, to be sure) leave us impressed and satisfied in both the musical substance and outstanding musicianship exhibited, from the most obscure recitative (“Calm thou my soul”, from Alexander Balus) to the best-known aria (“Rejoice greatly”, from Messiah—the marvelous yet rarely-heard 12/8 version, no less!). While this is far from a “greatest hits” collection—most of these pieces are not frequently heard or recorded—that will in no way dampen this disc’s appeal for true lovers of Handel’s soprano arias or for fans of Sandrine Piau (and who isn’t one of those?).