Beauty of the Baroque

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Dowland,Handel,JS Bach,Monteverdi,Pergolesi & Purcell
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Songs by Dowland, Handel, JS Bach, Monteverdi, Pergolesi & Purcell
PERFORMER: Danielle de Niese (soprano)
CATALOGUE NO: 478 2260

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With her film-star looks and magnetic stage presence, Danielle de Niese is a dazzling performer in concert or in the opera house. On CD, though, the limitations of her singing become all-too apparent. She tends to force the voice, particularly in its upper reaches, and the resulting sound is harsh and edgy; her tonal palette and dynamic range lack variety, and expressive nuances are restricted. Many will find her use of vibrato excessive, too – particularly in the Dowland, where it interferes with the purity of line. She seems more at ease, her voice less strained and more warmly coloured in the slow, lower-range arias ‘Ombra mai fù’ and ‘When I am laid in earth’, for example. Countertenor Andreas Scholl joins her for a poignant account of the opening movement of Pergolesi’s Stabat mater, as well as the love duets ‘Pur ti miro’ (often misattributed to Monteverdi, as here) and ‘Io t’abbraccio’ from Handel’s Rodelinda. The English Concert gives supple support here, but the singers lack intimacy and passion and the recording perspective only enhances their separateness. Eviscerated from their dramatic context, these sublime works never quite take wing. Kate Bolton