Handel: Apollo e Dafne; Crudel tiranno amor

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: Arion
WORKS: Apollo e Dafne; Crudel tiranno amor
PERFORMER: Salomé Haller (soprano); Les Paladins/Jérôme Corréas (bass)
CATALOGUE NO: ARN 68565
Handel’s Italian dramatic cantata Apollo and Daphne or, more properly ‘La terra è liberata’, is one of his best. He seems to have begun work on it towards the end of his youthful Italian visit, completing it shortly after, in Hannover. The story of the lovers is based on that in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, though the librettist is unknown. It’s a splendid work, full of contrasting emotions and plentifully endowed with engaging melodies and supple continuo lines. One of the melodies, Daphne’s ‘Felicissima quest’alma’, is meltingly beautiful, and blustering, self-important Apollo, who boasts of his imperviousness to Cupid’s arrows, falls for it in a big way.

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There are some enjoyable features in this live performance; Salomé Haller’s voice is pleasing, and the ensemble is accomplished. But, as I noted in an earlier Handel release by Les Paladins, the large and somewhat unfocused singing of Jérôme Corréas sounds uncomfortable in a chamber pastoral setting such as this; his ‘Spezza l’arco’ is a case in point. It is a pity, too, that both singers seem unable to resist ornamenting Handel’s vocal line before the da capo, a tendency shared by the otherwise exemplary oboist in her sensitive accompaniment to Daphne’s ‘Felicissima quest’alma’. A flute is thought to have been Handel’s intention here, but I confess to preferring an oboe, since it evokes more vividly the spirit of the piece and its pastoral backdrop. Another Italian cantata, Crudel tiranno amor for soprano and instruments, completes the programme. Nicholas Anderson