Handel: Apollo e Dafne; Silete venti

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LABELS: Dorian
WORKS: Apollo e Dafne; Silete venti
PERFORMER: Karina Gauvin (soprano), Russell Braun (baritone); Les Violons du Roy/Bernard Labadie
This disc contains two of Handel’s most memorable pieces for solo voices and instruments. The earlier of them is the Italian cantata La terra è liberata, the story of Apollo and Daphne, which Handel began in about 1709 and completed in the following year. The other is a Latin motet Silete venti (Be silent, winds, rustle no more, you leaves, for my soul reposes in sweet bliss) which he composed in London, probably during the 1720s. Silete venti is written for soprano voice, oboe and strings, and reflects, in its textual imagery, the Enlightenment predisposition towards the association of Nature with fervent joy in God. Handel, as always, responded imaginatively, with two strikingly contrasting arias, each prefaced by an accompanied recitative, and a concluding Alleluia of great charm and brilliance. Apollo and Daphne is an extended dramatic cantata which contains two arias of outstanding beauty. One of them, Daphne’s ‘Felicissima quest’alma’, is a ravishing siciliano with traverso flute obbligato and pizzicato strings; the other belongs to Apollo – his ‘Come rosa in su la spina’ is a poignant declaration of a passion which seems at the time to be getting him nowhere. The all-Canadian cast consisting of soprano Karina Gauvin, baritone Russell Braun and an ensemble of modern instruments under Bernard Labadie bring the music to life with virtuosity, expressive warmth and a fine sense of style. Go for it! Nicholas Anderson