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Handel: Heroic Arias / James Bowman, Robert King, The King's Consort

Handel / Bowman / King's Consort / King
Release Date: 05/08/2012 
Label:  Helios   Catalog #: 55370  
Composer:  George Frideric Handel
Performer:  James Bowman
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 17 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This recording was made to celebrate countertenor James Bowman's twenty-fifth anniversary in the business: it hardly seems possible that he should have been around so long. The way in which we now take the refined and characteristically English countertenor voice for granted has much to do with the sheer professionalism of Bowman and his far-reaching influence on a whole generation of younger singers. In any case, his highly distinctive voice—as familiar in the early music world as a favourite blend of herb tea--is still in fine fettle, and what could be more appropriate than a selection of some of Handel's most ravishing operatic arias as, Robert King puts it in his notes, "a small monument" to a great musician? Well, a series of Read more staged productions of Handel's operas with Bowman in some of the roles featured on the disc; but given that, sadly, our leading opera houses seem to have a curious aversion to Handel, we will at least have this recording to enjoy at home.

These roles were, of course originally written for the star quality castratos Handel engaged for his London seasons, and Bowman, for all his many years of experience, is still the star of his own field. A few of the younger countertenors can make a more beautiful sound, but none has quite Bowman's feel for the idiom nor his ability to project the melodic line, whether in the furiously rapid passage work of an aria like "Venti turbini" from Rinaldo or the sustained suspensions of the exquisite "Scherza infida" from Ariodante. The secret to his success in Handel is his skill in singing expressively without ever sounding either too muscular or too mannered. What you get is direct and compelling, and yet attentive to every nuance of the composer's phrasing and melodic inflection. Bowman is also remarkable for his ability to characterize with such urgent conviction as in "Al lampo dell 'armi" (Giulio Cesare).

On the whole, The King's Consort successfully captures the spirit of each piece. The strings are at times a little bland and unshaped for my taste, but they always accompany well and stylishly and there is some excellent obbligato playing from individual members of the group. There are moments when the harpsichord seems unduly prominent, and it anyway makes for a good sense of contrast to use the archlute, as in the accompanied recitative to "Tanti affani" (Ottone), one of Handel's most overtly expressive arias, full of heart-on-sleeve chromaticism. Here the performance is marred only by the rather thin string sound. The selection of arias makes repeated listening irresistible, and the recording as a whole is a fitting document of a singer who has done so much to enhance our appreciation of baroque opera and oratorio.

-- T. K., Gramophone [12/1991]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Amadigi di Gaula, HWV 11: Pena tiranna by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  James Bowman (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1715; London, England 
2.
Giulio Cesare, HWV 17: Va tacito e nascosto by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  James Bowman (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1724; London, England 
Language: Italian 
3.
Rinaldo, HWV 7: Cara sposa by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  James Bowman (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1711; London, England 
Language: Italian 
4.
Ottone, HWV 15: Tanti affanni by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  James Bowman (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1723; London, England 
Language: Italian 
5.
Alcina, HWV 34: Verdi prati by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  James Bowman (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1735; London, England 
Language: Italian 
6.
Giulio Cesare, HWV 17: Al lampo dell' armi by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  James Bowman (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1724; London, England 
Language: Italian 
7.
Rinaldo, HWV 7: Venti, turbini by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  James Bowman (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1711; London, England 
Language: Italian 
8.
Rinaldo, HWV 7: Or la tromba in suon festante by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  James Bowman (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1711; London, England 
Language: Italian 
9.
Ariodante, HWV 33: Scherza infida, in grembo al drudo by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  James Bowman (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1734-1735; London, England 
Language: Italian 
10.
Giustino, HWV 37: Se parla nel mio cor by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  James Bowman (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1737; London, England 
Language: Italian 
11.
Rinaldo, HWV 7: Battaglia and marcia by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1711; London, England 
Language: Italian 
12.
Serse, HWV 40: Sinfonia by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1738; London, England 
13.
Giustino, HWV 37: Zeffiretto, che scorre nel prato by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  James Bowman (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1737; London, England 

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