PERFORMER: Kathleen Battle (soprano), Wynton Marsalis (trumpet); Orchestra of St Luke’s/John Nelson
CATALOGUE NO: SK 46672 DDD
The most polite euphemism I can use to describe this recording is ‘highly individual’. The liquid honey of Kathleen Battle’s voice is not in doubt; nor is the brilliance and dexterity of Wynton Marsalis’s trumpet playing. Such a combination of talents in the music of Bach, Handel and their near-contemporaries was potentially very exciting, but these performers were apparently unable to take it at face value: their sugary interpretations are flavoured with fun and frivolity.
Battle delivers Bach’s exquisite ‘Seufzer, Tränen, Kummer, Not’ from his Cantata No. 21 as though it were a coda to her recent DG recording of Rachmaninov’s Vocalise – much too sensuous and over-contrived. Marsalis’s obbligati and solo movements – on a modern valve trumpet – are beautifully shaped, but many of his flourishes seem inappropriate and some are outrageous, as in the close of Handel’s ‘Alle voci del bronzo guerriero’ and ‘Let the Bright Seraphim’.
These are not considered performances of Baroque music. Bach, Handel, Scarlatti, Predieri and Stradella deserve better. This was a gimmicky vehicle given to Battle and Marsalis and they have spectacularly run it right off the road of credibility. Elisse McDougall