"Who is that soprano?; Oh! it's Lucy Crowe!" That little dialogue with myself must have occurred four or five times over the past year as I listened to new recordings of vocal works with various soloists. Whether she's singing with Sarah Connolly, Carolyn Sampson, Jennifer Larmore, Gerald Finley, Mark Padmore, or any other first-class operatic artist or recitalist, she is the one who stands out, inviting, demanding the question "Who is that soprano?"
As far as I can determine, this is Crowe's first completely solo recording, and thankfully she chose to make her Handel recital different from others by selecting not the most commonly heard opera arias, but ratherRead more drawing from the composer's very fruitful but rarely explored three-year sojourn in Italy, which began in late 1706. Here we have first-rate performances of two solo cantatas--Armida abbandonata HWV 105 and Alpestre monte HWV 81 (apparently written by the 21-year-old Handel soon after his arrival)--as well as magnificent and quite challenging arias from other cantatas and the oratorios Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno and La Resurrezione.
Yes, there are a couple of well-known pieces here--the aria "Ah! crudele..." (from Armida abbandonata), and one of Handel's most affecting and purely beautiful creations, "Lascia la spina", which first appeared as an instrumental sarabande in the opera Almira (1705), then again years later as "Lascia ch'io pianga" in the opera Rinaldo. We're also treated to Salve Regina, a minimally-scored yet substantial sacred work whose four movements are as filled with emotional power and dramatic presence as any of the cantatas.
Among today's sopranos (and perhaps beyond that) Crowe is simply in a class by herself in this repertoire. It's not only the easy, fluid technique, the accurate delineation of notes in fast passages (without aspirating), or the luminous tone, consistent across all registers, but her way with the texts, the phrasing, her delightful manner of ornamentation that enable her not just to sing beautifully, but to truly, convincingly convey the mood and character of each piece.
No need for referring to the text when you listen to her "Ah! crudele..." and "Lascia la spina", nor to the Salve Regina's "Ad te clamamus" (To thee do we cry). And for sheer, exciting virtuosity, Crowe's "Disserratevi, o porte d'Averno" from La Resurrezione will convince you (if somehow you haven't been already!) that this is an uncommonly gifted artist who knows and is very comfortable with her voice and who also knows how to choose just the right repertoire.
The program also contains three instrumental "sonatas", expertly played, but I'll bet you'll be most enchanted by the one from Delirio Amoroso, one of Handel's most clever and catchy inventions, with its irresistible melodies and scurrying string figures. Harry Bicket leads the entire recital with a stylistic flair and sensitivity to singer and ensemble--and to Handel--that all involved obviously found just the ticket. There's nothing left to say but "bravo!" to the production team, to "Il caro Sassone", and to "La cara britannica"!
One for the desert island short list!February 27, 2012By E. diGuglielmo (Brooklyn, NY)See All My Reviews"Loving Handel operas, oratorios ("Tionfo" in particular) and particularly the Italian cantatas, I read the ArkivMusic review with great interest. I ordered the cd, never having heard Lucy Crowe. Oh!! This is an absolutely gorgeous cd!! I was compelled to write. Ms Crowe's voice is so pure, clear and expressive without any hint of the maudlin. As the reviewer said, the choice of less heard arias and cantatas is also wonderful. This cd joins my precious Lorraine Hunt Lieberson Handel cds on my desert island short list. I can't wait to see and hear Lucy Crowe in "La Clemenza di Tito" at the Metropolitan Opera in the late fall!"Report Abuse