Handel: Italian cantatas & duets

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WORKS: Italian cantatas & duets
PERFORMER: Les Paladins: Sandrine Piau (soprano), Jérôme Correas (bass-baritone), Emmanuelle Haïm (harpsichord), Marion Middenway (cello)
French singers have been increasingly drawn to Handel’s music in recent times and the present release of chamber cantatas and duets is one of several Gallic performances to have been issued in the past few years. It features the four Italian duets for soprano and bass whose authenticity is secure, and three cantatas with continuo accompaniment of which La Lucrezia, for soprano, is the most extended and dramatically best sustained. Sandrine Piau has a bright coloured voice and an agile technique which effectively enlivens Handel’s many passages of brilliant coloratura. The ‘Furioso’ section of Lucrezia comes off splendidly while, in more lyrical movements, she is able to convey a more reflective allure. Alas, where Jérôme Correas is concerned I feel much less convinced. This singer, who has contributed so much of excellence to French Baroque opera, seems to have been unable to adjust to an appropriate chamber style. The first aria of Nell’ africane selve, chromatic and subtly expressive, is full of blustery portamentos and somewhat unfocused intonation. In the duets his voice sometimes sounds ill-matched and uncomfortable beside that of Piau. Despite stylish continuo support throughout, the release is something of a disappointment. Nicholas Anderson