Collection: Baroque Duet

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Bach,Handel,Predieri,Scarlatti,Stradella
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Various
PERFORMER: Kathleen Battle (soprano), Wynton Marsalis (trumpet); Orchestra of St Luke’s/John Nelson
CATALOGUE NO: SK 46672 DDD

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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’.

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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