, May 2012
Aci, Galatea e Polifemo is not strictly speaking an opera, but a dramatic cantata, written in Italy and first performed in Naples in 1708. This aria, sung by Acis, is beautiful with celestial recorder obbligato—though the liner notes say oboe. As always with Handel there is plenty of room for embellishment of the vocal line.
From his first London opera, Rinaldo, we get the remarkable aria from act I, Cara sposa, amante cara. After the agitated orchestral introduction we get what Charles Burney called ‘by many degrees the most pathetic song, and with the richest accompaniment, which had been then heard in England’. It is long and many-faceted and the whole opera was a magnificent calling-card for the young German in 1711. Even greater masterpieces were to follow but Rinaldo is still an amazing composition.
Vaghe pupille is another highly individual piece from Orlando, depicting Orlando’s jealousy upon finding out that Angelica loves another. The vocal equilibristics are uncommonly motivated in this case, no mere decorations.
From Giulio Cesare we hear Caesar’s Va tacito from the first act, also unique insofar as it is Handel’s only aria with an obbligato horn. The music is graphically descriptive of Caesar who must act like a hunter, moving silently not to alert his prey. The horn is played powerfully by Raul Diaz.
The two arias from Floridante are also inspired pieces and in particular Se dolce m’era già which is a contemplation on death. The music breathes in short phrases, interrupted by pauses like sighs. Highly evocative.
Partenope is an opera that abounds in marvellous music. In this aria tumultuous feelings are depicted in likewise tumultuous music.
In the aria from the second act of Giulio Cesare, Caesar is enthralled by Cleopatra’s voice and compares her to a bird. And the bird is heard in the obbligato solo violin.
Finally there is the masterly Ombra cara from Radamisto, noble and touching, sung with great affection.
There is glorious singing throughout the recital and Roy Goodman draws vivacious and stylish playing from the excellent Hanover Band. It is great to have this disc available again. Handel lovers should place their orders at once. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review