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Handel: Opera Arias / Kirkby, Bott, Goodman, Et Al


Release Date: 09/11/2007 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 44271   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma KirkbyCatherine Bott
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Delightful music, delightfully sung, well accompanied and recorded. At bargain price, irresistible ...

This set of three CDs combines three Hyperion discs - CDA66860, 66950 and 67128, now reissued at super-bargain price - in total selling for very little more than the price of one CD on their first appearance. Many collectors will buy this set on pure impulse, taking the quality of the performances on trust from Emma Kirkby, assisted by Catherine Bott on CD2 and throughout by Roy Goodman and the Brandenburg Consort. Those who have read my earlier reviews of Emma Kirkby reissues and of Roy Goodman’s Handel Opus 3 Concerti will not be surprised to learn that I recommend the present reissue very strongly: delightful
Read more music, delightfully sung, well accompanied and recorded. At its new bargain price, this set is irresistible.

The component CDs were all highly praised on their first appearances. Gerald Fenech, here on Musicweb in June 2000, thought CDA67128 an excellent follow-up to an immensely satisfying Volume I. The only significant criticism which I have seen is that the orchestral accompaniment to the first CD is not always ideal and that the recording of the orchestra is too resonant. The same reviewer, however, who criticised the accompaniment and hoped that the orchestra would move out of the swimming bath described the accompaniment to CD2 as prompt and stylish and had no adverse comments on the recording – made by the same producer in the same venue – indeed, he made it one of his CDs of the year.

I simply do not hear the ‘swimming-bath’ acoustic: St Jude-on-the-Hill has, in fact, been one of Hyperion’s favourite and most successful locations over the years. Maybe the clarity of Kirkby’s voice made the orchestral sound seem subjectively less precise. As for the rough edges to the accompaniment, we seem to have forgotten how far period orchestras have come in such a short time: little more than thirty years ago I remember despairing of the wind playing on an LP of Handel’s Water Music by early-music performers who have since gone on to great things. In any case, if we could be magically transported back to hear the premières of these operas, the playing would probably have far more rough edges than the few moments of imprecision on these CDs.

The booklet rightly highlights the playing of individual members of the Consort who duet with Emma Kirkby in various arias – most notably the oboist Katharina Arfken and Robert Farley on trumpet on CDs 1 and 3.

Another reviewer thought the performances fluent and stylish but a little too decorous, slightly lacking in dramatic extravagance. Again, I think the purity of Kirkby’s voice, where drama is often more implicit than explicit, sometimes lends itself to the misconception that she is not involved in the rôle. I have dealt with this matter in my recent review of the Eloquence reissue of her Elizabethan Songbook.

There can be no question of lack of dramatic involvement on the second CD, where she and Catherine Bott perform some of the arias associated with the two rival sopranos of Handel’s middle period, 1726-8, Francesca Cuzzoni and Faustina Bordoni. Ironically, in view of the enmity which existed between these ‘rival queens’, Emma Kirkby enjoys a most productive relationship with fellow soprano Catherine Bott. Each takes the rôle of one ‘queen’ and the two voices provide a very effective contrast with each other.

This second CD is probably the most attractive of the three. The first covers the period of the early operas up to 1726, of which the best-known is Giulio Cesare, here represented by V’adoro, pupille, sung by Cleopatra as she attempts to seduce Cæsar to her cause. Those who find some lack of drama in Kirkby’s voice would probably prefer a more sensuous tone here but the sheer beauty of the singing and the sensitivity of the accompaniment are winners in themselves.

The third CD covers the final period, after 1729, nearly all the rôles here being written with Anna Maria Strada in mind, a time when Handel was writing some of his finest operatic music, albeit for a public which was turning away from him. Once again the range is wide and Emma Kirkby encompasses all these rôles very successfully, from the hauntingly lyrical to the most impassioned. If I pick out the aria from Alcina, that is probably because that work has a strong claim to be Handel’s operatic masterpiece. I am particularly sorry that no space could be found for anything from Orlando, another late-period work which I think runs Alcina a pretty close second.

The booklet is excellent – full of informative detail in Hyperion’s best manner. English readers will find the Italian texts and English translations embedded in the section of the notes devoted to the relevant opera. French and German readers get the detailed notes but have to find the Italian texts in the English commentary and there is no French or German translation. Those seeking scores of these pieces will find some of them available online, for example the whole of Act III of Alcina – indeed, the whole of Alcina – at this site.

One slight criticism: the CD case – the normal 3- or 4-CD size case – tended not to close firmly enough to prevent its falling open too easily. I missed the delightful cover pictures of the originals: the photograph of Emma Kirkby looking uncharacteristically haughty on the rear cover is no substitute, but the new front cover depicting Rinaldo and Armida is an excellent choice, the latter not only depicted in Rinaldo (CD1, track 4) but also doubling as the archetypal femme fatale of Ariosto’s and Tasso’s epics such as Alcina (CD3, track 9.)

This 3-CD set represents the best of the reissues of Emma Kirkby which I have recently reviewed; readers of those other reviews will recognise that as praise indeed. Go out and buy it, along with Hyperion’s other recent Kirkby/Goodman bargain reissue, Vivaldi Opera Arias and Sinfonias, on Helios CDH55279. Fans of Angela Hewitt’s Bach benefit from a comparable Hyperion bargain: both books of the Well-tempered Klavier reissued on CDS44291/4.

If this has seemed shorter than my usual reviews, it is because I have so few reservations. I note that Gerald Fenech’s review is even more the soul of brevity, presumably for the same reason. To paraphrase Ecclesiastes, of writing many reviews there is no end and much study is a weariness of the flesh when there is such beautiful music to listen to. Buy it and listen to it – that is better than any mere words.

I only hope that Hyperion’s generosity in making such fine performances available at so reasonable a price does not distract attention from their continuing full-price issues. However with recordings of the quality of Marc-André Hamelin’s version of the Alkan Piano Concerto this month that is hardly likely to happen.

-- Brian Wilson, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1. Almira, HWV 1: Overture by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1705; Germany 
2. Almira, HWV 1: Vedrai s' a tuo dispetto by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1705; Germany 
Language: Italian 
3. Rodrigo, HWV 5: Perché viva il caro sposo by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1707; Italy 
Language: Italian 
4. Rinaldo, HWV 7: Vo' far guerra, e vincer voglio by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1711; London, England 
Language: Italian 
5. Silla: Overture by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1724; London, England 
6. Amadigi di Gaula, HWV 11: Ah! spietato by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1715; London, England 
Language: Italian 
7. Amadigi di Gaula, HWV 11: Desterò dall' empia Dite by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1715; London, England 
Language: Italian 
8. Rodelinda, HWV 19: Ombre, piante, urne funeste by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1725; London, England 
Language: Italian 
9. Giulio Cesare, HWV 17: V'adoro pupille by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1724; London, England 
Language: Italian 
10. Tamerlano, HWV 18: Overture by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1724; London, England 
11. Tamerlano, HWV 18: Cor di padre, e cor d'amante by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1724; London, England 
Language: Italian 
12. Scipione, HWV 20: Overture by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1726; London, England 
13. Scipione, HWV 20: March by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1726; London, England 
14. Scipione, HWV 20: Scoglio d'immota fronte by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1726; London, England 
Language: Italian 
15. Alessandro, HWV 21: Overture by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1726; London, England 
16. Alessandro, HWV 21: Act 1 Sinfonia by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1726; London, England 
17. Alessandro, HWV 21: Che vidi? Che mirai! by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano), Catherine Bott (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1726; London, England 
18. Alessandro, HWV 21: No, più soffrir non voglio by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Catherine Bott (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1726; London, England 
19. Alessandro, HWV 21: Placa l'alma by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano), Catherine Bott (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1726; London, England 
20. Alessandro, HWV 21: Solitudine amate by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1726; London, England 
21. Alessandro, HWV 21: Aure, fonti by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1726; London, England 
22. Alessandro, HWV 21: Pur troppo veggio by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Catherine Bott (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1726; London, England 
23. Alessandro, HWV 21: Che tirannia d'amor! by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Catherine Bott (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1726; London, England 
24. Alessandro, HWV 21: Svanisci oh reo timore by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1726; London, England 
25. Alessandro, HWV 21: Dica il falso by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1726; London, England 
26. Admeto, Rè di Tessaglia, HWV 22: Il ritratto d'Admeto by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano), Catherine Bott (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1727; London, England 
27. Admeto, Rè di Tessaglia, HWV 22: La sorte mia vacilla by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Catherine Bott (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1727; London, England 
28. Admeto, Rè di Tessaglia, HWV 22: Quest'è dunque la fede...Vedrò fra poco by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1727; London, England 
29. Riccardo Primo, HWV 23: Morte vieni by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Catherine Bott (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1720; London, England 
30. Riccardo Primo, HWV 23: A me nel mio rossore by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano), Catherine Bott (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1720; London, England 
31. Riccardo Primo, HWV 23: Quando non vede by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1720; London, England 
32. Siroe, Rè di Persia, HWV 24: A costei, che dirò? by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano), Catherine Bott (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1728; London, England 
33. Siroe, Rè di Persia, HWV 24: L'aura non sempre by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Catherine Bott (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1728; London, England 
34. Siroe, Rè di Persia, HWV 24: Si diversi...Non vi piacque by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1728; London, England 
35. Tolomeo, HWV 25: E dove, e dove mai...Fonti amiche by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Catherine Bott (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1728; London, England 
36. Tolomeo, HWV 25: Ti penitrai, crudel by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano), Catherine Bott (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1728; London, England 
37. Lotario, HWV 26: Overture by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1729; London, England 
38. Lotario, HWV 26: Scherza in mar by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1729; London, England 
39. Partenope, HWV 27: Io ti levo by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1730; London, England 
40. Ezio, HWV 29: Caro padre by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1732; London, England 
41. Sosarme, HWV 30: Dite pace by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1732; London, England 
42. Sosarme, HWV 30: Vorrei, né pur saprei by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1732; London, England 
43. Atalanta, HWV 35: Trumpet Overture by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1736; London, England 
44. Arianna in Creta, HWV 32: Son qual stanco by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: London, England 
Notes: Composition written: London, England (1721 - 1734). 
45. Alcina, HWV 34: Ah! Ruggiero crudel...Ombre pallide by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1735; London, England 
46. Berenice, Regina d'Egitto, HWV 38: Chi t'intende by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1737; London, England 
47. Deidamia, HWV 42: Overture by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1741; London, England 
48. Deidamia, HWV 42: M'hai resa infelice by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Emma Kirkby (Soprano)
Conductor:  Roy Goodman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brandenburg Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1741; London, England 

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