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Penguin Guide, January 2009

This is simply the most thrilling collection of miscellaneous Handel arias in the catalogue, and the Rosette must be shared equally by the perceptive unnamed compiler, the artists for their inspired contributions, and to Capriccio’s Surround Sound for providing such an extraordinary communication of the artists’ presence and of the feeling of actually sitting in the concert hall. It is not possible to do justice to the many fine performances here. Opening with resplendent trumpets, as only Handel knows how to write for them, the programme beings with the clarion call from Rinaldo, Or le tromba in suon festante, dramatically sung by Jochen Kowalski, who is later to be equally commanding in the bravura aria from Rodelinda, and then melts the listener with a glorious Ombra mai fù. In all three items, there are splendid accompaniments by the C.P.E. Bach Chamber Orchestra under Helmut Haenschen. The three excerpts from Messiah are memorable too, with the silvery voice of the remarkable male soprano, Max Emanuel Cencic, standing out.

After Axel Köhler has sung the virtuoso aria from Orlando with alomb, she is joined in duet in the Julius Caesar excerpt by a remarkably characterful unnames period-horn soloist. Our own Emma Kirkby is as ravishing as evern in the celestial motet, Silete venti, and Ann Monoyios shares her lovely German aria, Süsse Stille, with the flute d’amour. And it is the delicate opening and closing writing for flutes that helps to make Arleen Augér’s first aria from Hercules so haunting. Then in the closing item, Mount, mount the steep ascent, she is followed by a thrilling burst of choral fervor by the combined Leipzig University and New Bach Collegium choirs. There are, alas, no texts and translations—but, for once, one is lost for words anyway.

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