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Handel Gold - Bartoli, Fleming, Kozena, Terfel, Villazon, Te Kanawa, Sutherland, Et Al

Release Date: 04/14/2009 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 001280102   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Dame Kiri Te KanawaCrispian Steele-PerkinsCecilia BartoliPlacido Domingo,   ... 
Conductor:  Barry RoseMarc MinkowskiMarcello ViottiRichard Bonynge,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber OrchestraLes Musiciens du LouvreVerdi Grand Symphonic Orchestra Milan,   ... 
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 23 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The performances are fully worthy of the music.

Just a couple of weeks ago I had a similar double CD with Handel’s vocal music for review. It was issued by Virgin and the material was culled from complete recordings and recitals in the Virgin and EMI vaults. This Decca issue draws on the back catalogues of Deutsche Grammophon, Decca and Philips and a couple of further sources. The biggest difference is that the Virgin set also included a number of duets. Decca on the other hand offer a couple of choruses. In both compilations it is the arias that dominate. Stylistically the Virgin set has a greater dominance of period performances. The Decca is not far behind however but include some truly old-fashioned – but classical
Read more – readings. The choice of items is good with a predominance of arias that most listeners will recognise, maybe even sing along with; nothing wrong with that. The important thing is that the general standard is high and even though there is a higher percentage of non-baroque specialists among the singers here, they do a really good job.

Kiri Te Kanawa in creamy voice and Crispian Steele-Perkins on superb form open with Let the bright seraphim from Samson, in effect one of most magnificent duets in all Handel. Lascia la spina from the Italian oratorio Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno will be familiar from Handel’s first opera for London, Rinaldo, as Lascia ch’io pianga, which came a few years later, but the aria seems to hark back to a saraband from Almira. Cecilia Bartoli’s reading is beautifully inward and expressive. Domingo’s Ombra mai fu, recorded in the early 2000s, is fine and Joan Sutherland’s aria from Alcina doesn’t enunciate many of the words audibly but her trill and runs are astonishing - as always. Anne Sofie von Otter’s Dopo notte is one of the highlights, bouncy and forward moving and with the utmost fluency. No one expects Pavarotti to be a baroque stylist but though largely un-Handelian Cara selve has moments of sensitivity – and the voice in 1973 was still unscratched.

Renée Fleming’s creamy tones are almost on a par with Kiri Te Kanawa’s and Rolando Villazon, whose Handel recital I recently reviewed, gives a riveting, vital reading of the aria from Tamerlano. Joyce DiDonato is the contralto of the day and she is magnificent. Russell Oberlin in the long Ah, dolce nome, recorded as long ago as 1959, sports a warm rounded countertenor with beautiful vibrato, a far cry from the whitish sounds of Alfred Deller and the few other singers of the day. Nigel Robson opens his aria from Jephtha with almost countertenor sounds too but then establishes his quite personal, restrained but expressive tenor voice. Kathleen Ferrier’s He was despised is grand – but moving and Simon Preston inspires his Westminster Abbey forces to a punchy – and springy – Zadok the Priest.

CD 2 opens with Bryn Terfel singing Where’er you walk so softly and scaled down that he challenges even John McCormack, and Janet Baker is unsurpassed in her combination of powerful intensity and warmth in Where shall I fly. The contrast in voice characteristics between her and Magdalena Kozena is instructive, set one after the other as here. Kozena’s much lighter voice hardly touches the ground in her flight with Jubal’s lyre. Neville Marriner avoids the old-fashioned pomposity that mar some old readings of the Judas Maccabaeus chorus. This is followed by an aria from the same work, sung by Grace Bumbry in what must be one of her earliest recordings. It was published in 1959, when she was 22 and before she had even made her operatic debut. She was a surprisingly mature singer even then. Andreas Scholl’s clarion tones gild his aria from Solomon and the sparkling Danielle de Niese is delightful in the long aria from Semele.  

John Tomlinson, before he took on Wotan in Bayreuth, is weighty but flexible in the aria from Messiah and it is a pleasure to hear the young Teresa Berganza in soprano repertoire. Fritz Wunderlich’s Verdi prati from Alcina reminds us of that he was the possessor of one of the most beautiful tenor voices in recorded history. Unique was also Marilyn Horne with her enormous voice range and sure-fire technique. Both Susan Gritton and Sylvia McNair deliver sensitive lyrical readings of their arias, whereas Thomas Quasthoff, who normally is just as sensitive, primarily has to be jubilant in The trumpet shall sound. This is, just as much as Let the bright seraphim, a duet for voice and trumpet, and the trumpet player should naturally be credited, which he isn’t. Since I reviewed the recital from where the aria is culled, I was able to check in the notes there and his name is Markus Schmutzler.

What better way is there to end a compilation like this than with the Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah? Trevor Pinnock’s reading has all the joy one could wish.

There are no texts and no liner notes, just a plain track-list identifying the participating singers. But this is not really an issue to ponder too much in depth, rather lean back, shut one’s eyes and just enjoy. Those who find the repertoire to their liking can rest assured that the performances are fully worthy of the music.

-- Göran Forsling, MusicWeb International

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Works on This Recording

Samson, HWV 57: Let the bright Seraphim by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Dame Kiri Te Kanawa (Soprano), Crispian Steele-Perkins (Trumpet)
Conductor:  Barry Rose
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1743; London, England 
Length: 5 Minutes 59 Secs. 
Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno, HWV 46a: Lascia la spina, cogli la rosa by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Cecilia Bartoli (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Marc Minkowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Musiciens du Louvre
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1707 
Length: 5 Minutes 57 Secs. 
Serse, HWV 40: Ombra mai fu "Largo" by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Placido Domingo (Tenor)
Conductor:  Marcello Viotti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Verdi Grand Symphonic Orchestra Milan
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1738; London, England 
Length: 3 Minutes 49 Secs. 
Alcina, HWV 34: Tornami a vagheggiar by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Dame Joan Sutherland (Soprano)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1735; London, England 
Length: 4 Minutes 16 Secs. 
Ariodante, HWV 33: Dopo notte by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Anne Sofie von Otter (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Marc Minkowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Musiciens du Louvre
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1734-1735; London, England 
Length: 6 Minutes 51 Secs. 
Atalanta, HWV 35: Care selve by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Luciano Pavarotti (Tenor)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bologna Teatro Comunale Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1736; London, England 
Length: 3 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Douglas Gamley. 
Giulio Cesare, HWV 17: V'adoro pupille by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Renée Fleming (Soprano)
Conductor:  Harry Bicket
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1724; London, England 
Length: 4 Minutes 57 Secs. 
Tamerlano, HWV 18: Ciel e terra armi di sdegno by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Rolando Villazón (Tenor)
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Players
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1724; London, England 
Length: 3 Minutes 20 Secs. 
Floridante, HWV 14: Ma che vuoi più da me? by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Joyce DiDonato (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Alan Curtis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Complesso Barocco
Length: 4 Minutes 33 Secs. 
Muzio Scevola, HWV 13: Ah, dolce nome by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Russell Oberlin (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Thomas Dunn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Baroque Chamber Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1721; London, England 
Length: 8 Minutes 33 Secs. 
Jephtha, HWV 70: Waft her, angels, through the skies by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Nigel Robson (Tenor)
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Baroque Soloists
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1752; London, England 
Length: 4 Minutes 35 Secs. 
Messiah, HWV 56: He was despised and rejected by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Kathleen Ferrier (Alto)
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1742; London, England 
Length: 6 Minutes 47 Secs. 
Coronation Anthems (4): no 1, HWV 258 "Zadok the priest" by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Simon Preston (Organ)
Conductor:  Trevor Pinnock
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Abbey Choir,  English Concert
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1727; London, England 
Length: 5 Minutes 17 Secs. 
Semele, HWV 58: Where'er you walk by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Bryn Terfel (Bass Baritone)
Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1744; London, England 
Length: 4 Minutes 38 Secs. 
Hercules, HWV 60: Where shall I fly? by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Dame Janet Baker (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Raymond Leppard
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1744; London, England 
Length: 6 Minutes 41 Secs. 
Joshua, HWV 64: O had I Jubal's lyre by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Magdalena Kozená (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Andrea Marcon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1748; London, England 
Length: 2 Minutes 31 Secs. 
Judas Maccabaeus, HWV 63: See the conqu'ring hero comes by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chorus,  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1747; London, England 
Length: 2 Minutes 19 Secs. 
Judas Maccabaeus, HWV 63: Father of Heaven! by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Grace Bumbry (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Maurice Abravanel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Utah Symphony Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1747; London, England 
Length: 6 Minutes 44 Secs. 
Solomon, HWV 67: Almighty pow'r by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Andreas Scholl (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Players
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1749; London, England 
Length: 3 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Semele, HWV 58: Myself I shall adore by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Danielle De Niese (Soprano)
Conductor:  William Christie
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Arts Florissants
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1744; London, England 
Length: 7 Minutes 35 Secs. 
Messiah, HWV 56: The people that walked in darkness by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  John Tomlinson (Bass)
Conductor:  Trevor Pinnock
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Concert Choir,  English Concert
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1742; London, England 
Length: 4 Minutes 2 Secs. 
Giulio Cesare, HWV 17: Piangerò la sorte mia by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Teresa Berganza (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Sir Alexander Gibson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1724; London, England 
Length: 5 Minutes 54 Secs. 
Alcina, HWV 34: Verdi prati by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Fritz Wunderlich (Tenor)
Conductor:  Ferdinand Leitner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cappella Coloniensis
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1735; London, England 
Length: 4 Minutes 16 Secs. 
Semele, HWV 58: Hence, Iris, hence away by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Marilyn Horne (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Symphony Orchestra of London
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1744; London, England 
Length: 3 Minutes 44 Secs. 
Theodora, HWV 68: Angels ever bright and fair by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Players
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1749-1750; London, England 
Length: 3 Minutes 41 Secs. 
Messiah, HWV 56: I know that my redeemer liveth by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Sylvia McNair (Soprano)
Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1742; London, England 
Length: 5 Minutes 27 Secs. 
Messiah, HWV 56: The trumpet shall sound by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Thomas Quasthoff (Bass Baritone)
Conductor:  Sebastian Weigle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dresden Staatskapelle
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1742; London, England 
Length: 9 Minutes 13 Secs. 
Messiah, HWV 56: Hallelujah! by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Trevor Pinnock
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Concert Choir,  English Concert
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1742; London, England 
Length: 3 Minutes 58 Secs. 

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