Handel: Il trionfo del Tempo e della Verità

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COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Il trionfo del Tempo e della Verità
PERFORMER: Claron McFadden (soprano), Elisabeth Scholl (soprano), Nicholas Hariades, Peer Abilgaard (alto); Junge Kantorei, Frankfurt Baroque Orchestra/Joachim Carlos Martini
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554440-42
Research has revealed that Handel’s 1737 revision of his charming Roman allegory from 1707 was no mere revival. Its scale increased from two acts to three; ‘Tempo’, recast from alto to tenor, had much new music; and additional concertos, chorus, even carillon, titillated London taste. The music, though, retains Handel’s earlier high spirits as he took Italy by storm, and they’re reflected in this sparkling performance. Scholl (‘Pleasure’), light and transparent, ornaments delicately Handel’s heartfelt lines, McFadden adds a striking cadenza to Beauty’s magnificently posturing ‘battle aria’, and both combine in a delicious duet with two oboes (uncredited in the booklet notes). Both countertenors are relative newcomers, and excellent – Hariades’s ‘Time’ flies round the earth in spectacular chromatic figurations.

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Not all Handel’s changes were for the better. Some of the new music is a pale alternative to the 1707 version – the heavenly Sarabande (which became ‘Lascia ch’io piango’ in Rinaldo) mutates into a fast unison aria. Wisely, Martini inserts the original too, Scholl creating an atmosphere of breathtaking calm.

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The chorus, rather unwieldy in a resonant acoustic, sounds heftier than the 20-odd voices Handel assembled from London churches. But no committed Handelian could resist this first performance in 260 years. George Pratt