Handel: Sinfonias and arias from Alcina, Solomon, Ariodante, Alcina & Hercules

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

ALBUM TITLE: Heroes and Heroines
WORKS: Sinfonias and arias from Alcina, Solomon, Ariodante, Alcina & Hercules
PERFORMER: Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano); Symphony of Harmony and Invention/Harry Christophers
Handel may form a central part of the national artistic heritage, but his outstanding vocal writing, requiring both an impregnable technique and the keenest musical instincts, still finds many British singers wanting. Not so Sarah Connolly, whose immaculate legato, remarkable breath control, even scale and wide tonal range combine to present her with the full armoury needed for the varied challenges here. The programme is well planned, with roles from four different operas or oratorios highlighted, while Harry Christophers and his impeccable musicians vary the texture with orchestral extracts from the same works (their ‘Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’ is the brightest and breeziest I can recall). His sense of pacing is immaculate, and the accompaniments register as uniformly vivid in the natural, intimate acoustic. But the spotlight is on Connolly, who charts the emotional journeys of the alternately bold, lovelorn, then nostalgic Ruggiero (Alcina), the pensive Queen of Sheba (Solomon), the despairing then elated Ariodante, and the saddened, then maddened-by-jealousy Dejanira (Hercules) with a psychological perception scrupulously drawn from Handel’s notes. She’s in command of each and every one of them, and like all the greatest artists she makes this music her own. This is top-of-the-range Handel singing. George Hall