Handel: Tra le fiamme; Notte placida e cheta; Trio Sonatas, Opp. 2/5, 5/4 & 5/7

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COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: Chandos Chaconne
WORKS: Tra le fiamme; Notte placida e cheta; Trio Sonatas, Opp. 2/5, 5/4 & 5/7
PERFORMER: Catherine Bott (soprano); Purcell Quartet, Caroline Kershaw, Jane Downer (recorder, oboe), Tim Amherst (violone), Jonathan Manson (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 0620
Handel probably wrote Tra le fiamme in Rome in 1708. It’s one of the more striking of his early Italian cantatas: the score calls for recorders, oboes and a solo gamba, while the libretto’s three arias work through an elaborate analogy between falling in love and Icarus flying too close to the sun. It has been recorded before, notably by Emma Kirkby, who takes it appreciably faster than Catherine Bott. Both interpretations are good, though Richard Boothby’s eloquent gamba and Bott’s lustrous tone perhaps give this new version the edge.

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Notte placida e cheta, also from 1708, receives its premiere recording here. Though a slighter work than Tra le fiamme, it typifies the manifold charms of Handel’s Italian music, and its opening aria is especially delightful, a gentle melodic rapture coloured by exquisite tone-painting. Bott’s performance is captivating.

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With so many of the Italian cantatas still unrecorded, it’s a pity that the remainder of this CD comprises trio sonatas, a part of Handel’s oeuvre already well-represented on disc. (Indeed, Op. 2/5 has featured on two other recent recordings of chiefly vocal music.) That said, the music has a ready appeal, and the Purcell Quartet plays it superbly. Graham Lock