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Heavenly Handel: Arias and Duets
Laurent Naouri, Antonio Abete, George Frederick Handel
Heavenly Handel: Arias and Duets
Genres: Pop, Classical
 
  •  Track Listings (18) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (16) - Disc #2


      
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CD Reviews

Best of the Best...Handelian Masters for the Uninitiated
Ed Uyeshima | San Francisco, CA USA | 04/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"For those who would prefer their Handel in bite-size portions, this excellent two-disc set may do the trick. Virgin Classics has chosen stellar aria and duet selections from their extensive Handel discography (1978-2003) and in the process, come up with as definitive a collection of the prolific composer's work as any on the market now. With a running time of well over 2 ½ hours, this compilation covers a broad canvas drawn from some of Handel's finest Italian operas, such as "Rodelinda", "Giulio Cesare", "Rinaldo" and "Deidamia". Even more, there are selections from his English works ("Hercules" and "L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato"), as well as miscellaneous vocal Italianate selections.

You know you're in for a world-class set when you have the amazing countertenor David Daniels book-ending the collection, beginning with his platinum-standard version of the much-covered "Frondi tenere...Ombra mai fù" from "Serse" and Bertarido's mournful "Pompe vane di morte!...Dove sei, amato bene" from "Rodelinda". And the set ends in a dream-like state with his wondrous Sesto/Cornelia duet with contralto Stephanie Blythe on the heartbreaking "Madre...Son nata a lagrimar" from "Giulio Cesare". In between is a veritable feast provided by a who's who among the world's leading Handelians. Highlights on disc one include soprano Sandrine Piau and alto Sara Mingardo melding effortlessly on the graceful and vocally challenging "Sorge il di" from the Neapolitan serenata, "Aci, Galatea e Polifemo". Blythe captures Dejanira's requisite madness beautifully in the air, "Where shall I fly?" from "Hercules". Countertenor Gérard Lesne does several thrilling turns on an entire Handel cantata, "Splenda l'alba in oriente". From "Giulio Cesare", legendary contralto Janet Baker contributes a heroically measured "How silently, how slyly", equally revered countertenor James Bowman glides over "Upstart, barbarian and traitor" with true panache, and soprano Valerie Masterson holds her own among these giants showing a diverse range of emotion on "Flow my tears" alternating easily between sonorous and vibrant.

Disc two starts with mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux displaying some genuinely impressive runs on two arias from "Arminio", "Fatto scorta al sentier della gloria" and "Fiaccherò qul fiero orgoglio". Soprano Arleen Auger does a defiantly passionate turn on "Ombre pallide" from "Alcina", which compares favorably with Renée Fleming's more familiar version on Elektra. Daniels has yet another powerful vocal turn on the victorious "Venti, turbini" aria from "Rinaldo". Piau returns as well, this time intertwining atmospherically with mezzo-soprano Gloria Banditelli on the splendid "Prendi l'alma e prendi il core" from "Rodrigo". Operas are not the only source here. There is a charming duet between soprano Suzie LeBlanc and countertenor Derek Lee Ragin on the effusively Italianate "Tanti strali al sen", and a more dramatically diverse one between tenor Paul Agnew and soprano Patricia Petibon on "Caro autor do mia doglia" - both showcase yet another dimension of Handel to which I have not been exposed. Truth be told, if you enjoy these selections, you should purchase the original recordings, for example, Daniels' wonderful 1998 "Handel: Operatic Arias". But this will do in a pinch for the uninitiated who want an overview of Handel's musical genius. Trust me, with this stellar group of Handelians, you will beg for more."
A voice teacher and early music fan
George Peabody | Planet Earth | 02/06/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"CELESTIAL VOICES SING HEAVENLY HANDEL!

This is an excellent sampling of Handel's music and it is indeed "heavenly". Much of the music in Handel's operas, cantatas and oratorios are wonderfully vivid pieces of musical painting, and show Handel's genius in a light that is somewhat unfamiliar to modern musicians. Such passages as the sleep of Somnus in 'Semele' and the moonrise in 'Ariodante', to name but two instances out of many,form an important link in the history of programme music. But to those who understand and enjoy the Handelian idiom its beauty appear eternally new, and its unfailing dignity and loftiness of style recall the words in which Edward FitzGerald summed up his opinion of Handel: "His is the music for a great active people."

Since the line-up of the two CD's is listed by AMAZON, but the voice parts are not, I'll list them here as part of my review: Sopranos= V.Gens, S.Piau, J.Gomez, L. Dawson, V. Masterson, A. Auger, S. Kermes, S.Daneman, S. LeBlanc and P.Petibon; Mezzo-soprano= V.Genaux, D.Jones, G.Banditelli and A. Bonitatibus; Alto= S. Mingardo; Contralto=S.Blythe and J. Baker; Countertenor=D.Daniles, J.Bowman, D.Ragin, R.Jacob and G.Lesne; Tenors= I.Bostridge and P.Agnew; Baritones= L.Naouri and A.Abete. An impressive vocal line-up to be sure, but I would have wished for a few more tenors and baritones.

I have many of the discs already from which these examples were taken, but some of the songs were new to me for which I am grateful! Some of the high points for me: the duet from Guilio Cesare sung by contralto(Stephanie Blythe) and countertenor (Derek Ragin); the solo from Alcina sung by Arleen Auger(soprano)and David Daniel's rendition of "Ombra mai fu" from Serse. I have Andreas Scholl singing "Ombra" and I never realized how much more there is to that song till I heard Daniels sing it. Anyway this record is a great buy for Handelians."
Heavenly Handel, Indeed!
William L. Danek | Ocean City, MD | 09/30/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Exquisite, technically perfect and well balanced in selections and vocal choices. The music itself is a glorious example of Handel's brilliance."