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Ron Salemi
Fanfare, November 2009

This set of cantatas and operatic excerpts brings together at an attractive price three discs previously issued by Capriccio. Two of the discs are still currently available.

Handel’s cantatas can be divided into two groups, those accompanied by continuo and those that add one or more obbligato instruments or a full orchestra. On disc 1, Jochen Kowalski sings five cantatas, one orchestral and four continuo. Kowalski has an attractive countertenor voice, not hooty or hollow sounding. He is adept at coloratura, and his voice is strong throughout its range, aside from a couple of high notes. He does not display much emotional range, but the cantatas he chose are not particularly dramatic and thus do not require it. Tasteful ornaments are added to da capos. The accompaniments are good…Disc 2 is shared by countertenor Axel Köhler and soprano Veronika Winter. Köhler contributes two continuo cantatas. He has virtues similar to Kowalski: attractiveness of voice, adeptness at coloratura, evenness of range. His cantatas also are not particularly dramatic and don’t call for great emotional range. He, too, adds tasteful ornaments to the da capo arias…Veronika Winter chooses two orchestral cantatas that have been recorded many times. Winter sings with the severe white tone, completely lacking in vibrato…Disc 3 is devoted to opera arias and orchestral excerpts. Köhler here displays the same virtues he brought to the cantata performances, but he is not always given an opportunity to attempt to portray a character. Howard Arman is best in the orchestral excerpts. In the arias, he is sometimes guilty of excessive speed, where largo becomes andante and allegro is transmuted into presto…Handel’s continuo cantatas have been relatively ignored by the recording companies. Most remain unrecorded, waiting for the efforts of an enterprising company (Naxos? cpo?)…Considering the attractive price and the few alternative performances of many of these cantatas, there is value in obtaining this collection.

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