Handel: Clori, mia bella Clori; Armida abbandonata; Delirio amoroso

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LABELS: Collins
WORKS: Clori, mia bella Clori; Armida abbandonata; Delirio amoroso
PERFORMER: Ann Murray (mezzo-soprano) The Symphony of Harmony and Invention/Harry Christophers
The Italian Baroque chamber cantata was like a mini-opera for solo voice; the protagonist, often a betrayed lover, would give vent to conflicting emotions in a brief sequence of arias and recitatives. During his first stay in Italy, from 1706 to 1710, Handel wrote over 100 such works, a dazzling revelation of his melodic freshness and inventive touch.


The three cantatas on this splendid new CD certainly show Handel’s mastery of the genre, as well as his gift for the meltingly lovely tune. Armida abbandonata begins dramatically with the singer accompanied only by violin arpeggios – even the continuo has abandoned her! The first aria, ‘Ah! crudele’, is a haunting lament, the closing ‘In tanti affani miei’ one of those lilting sicilianos that became a Handel trademark. The 35-minute Delirio amoroso boasts a charming orchestral Introduzione and imaginative arias that feature violin, cello and recorder in turn.


Ann Murray sings superlatively, portraying the variously distraught lovers in a captivating display of vocal power and finesse. With spirited support from Harry Christophers and the orchestra, she makes these long-neglected gems sparkle anew. Graham Lock