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Penguin Guide, January 2009

Written in 1724, just after Giulio Cesare and just before Rodelinda, Tamerlano comes from one of the most fruitful periods of Handel’s career, full of compelling inspiration, yet it has been relatively neglected on disc. This Avie recording was made live at Sadler’s Wells in London in collaboration with the BBC in June 2001, marking a welcome return to disc of Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert. The result is delicate on a smallish scale, less sharply focused than Pinnock’s Archiv recordings, but with unerring judgement on style and pacing. This is an instance where the DVD, recorded live in the small and ideal Goethe theatre in Bad Lauchstädt, is greatly preferable to the CDs, with solo voices naturally caught and strongly projected against the beautifully recorded and balanced orchestra. It is a strong team of soloists, with Monica Bacelli in the title-role controlling her full, firm contralto well, the counter-tenor, Graham Pushee, light and free as Andronico and Anna Bonitatibus a charming Princess Irene. Thomas Randle gives a vigorously resonant account of the role of Bazajet, and Elizabeth Norberg-Schulz is most resonant as Bazajet’s daughter, Asteria. The production is simple and very effective, and Judy Levine’s vivid costumes create a colourful contrast. The DVD performance is totally gripping throughout, whereas on CD the stage noises tend to be obtrusive. The DVD set is splendidly documented, and includes a ‘read the score’ facility, with the action taking place behind the music—of course one can alternatively have the subtitles. The additional features include a retrospective review of 50 years of the Handel Festivals, from which this comes, and rehearsal sequences of the present performance.

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