L’Arpeggiata: Handel Goes Wild

Album title:
Handel Goes Wild
Handel: Alcina – Act III Sinfonia, ‘Verdi prati’, ‘Mi lusinga il dolce affetto’; Rinaldo – ‘Venti turbini’; Semele – ‘O, Sleep Why Dost Thou Leave Me?’, ‘Where’er you walk’; Rinaldo – ‘Cara sposa’; Solomon – Arrival of the Queen of Sheba; Amadigi – ‘Pena tiranna’; Giulio Cesare – ‘Piangerò la sorte mia’; Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno – ‘Tu del ciel ministro eletto’; Serse – ‘Ombra mai fu’; Vivaldi: Concerto in G minor, RV 157
Nuria Rial (soprano), Valer Sabadus (countertenor); L’Arpeggiata/Christina Pluhar
Catalogue Number:
BBC Music Magazine
L’Arpeggiata: Handel Goes Wild

Hybrid cars. Fusion food. If it’s your thing, so might be Baroque-Jazz Handel. Director and arranger Christina Pluhar presents re-imagined arias, sinfonias, and instrumental numbers with L’arpeggiata – two stellar teams of instrumentalists: a Baroque band, and a jazz ensemble.

Personally, I would like more of one or the other and I would very happily listen to this same programme of top-of-the-pops Handel performed by either. The Baroque instrumentalists display lyricism, drive, and percussive energy, and the jazz instrumentalists improvise on the germs of Handel’s imagination with infectious enthusiasm. Combined, I’m not always persuaded, but I can imagine that if I heard it live, I might return home thoroughly entertained – with the souvenir CD in my pocket.

There are some natural moments of departure, where the music invites sensual creativity and if you enjoy the lounge-style piano and clarinet soundworld there’s much to enjoy. However, at worst the affect of arias such as ‘Where’ere ye walk’ do not survive clarinet references of ‘I’ve got plenty o’nothing’, and the beat in the Arrival of the Queen of Sheba verges on a Klezmer-inspired Hooked-On-Classics. Instrumental numbers see the greatest integration between all instruments with the cornetto proving a fascinating virtuosic diplomat and continuo instruments reminding us that these genres have more that unite than divide. Most arias, including the exquisite ‘Piangero la sorte mia’, alternate the two groups with unflappable vocalists, Valer Sabadus and Nuria Rial, bridging the divide while themselves embracing a fusion of heartbreak and sass.

Whether or not Handel really goes wild here, he certainly gets experimental. Who knows if he would have loved it, but if you do that’s enough. 

Hannah French

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