Handel: Duets

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Duets from Tamerlano, Sosarme, Theodora, Rodelinda, Solomon, Ottone, Ariodante, Agrippina, Belshazzar & Giulio Cesare
PERFORMER: Rosemary Joshua (soprano), Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano); The English Concert/Harry Bicket
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 0767

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Handel was abstemious in his use of duets. One per drama was the norm, placed either at a point of desolation (seven minutes in a minor key) or joy (four minutes in a major key). Summed up this way, it sounds samey. But there are many more ways to say ‘Addio’ and ‘T’adoro’ than you’d guess from Rosemary Joshua and Sarah Connolly’s elegant but unimaginative recital with Harry Bicket and The English Concert.

Neither Ottone nor Sosarme are core repertoire and I’m glad to have heard the eager coloratura of ‘Notte cara’ (from the first) and the unhurried sensuality of ‘Per le porte del tormento’ (from the second). For the rest, however, Joshua and Connolly favour duets from popular oratorios (Belshazzar, Theodora and Solomon) and recently staged operas (Ariodante, Rodelinda, Tamerlano, Agrippina and Giulio Cesare), as though attempting a Greatest Hits album.

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The playing is crisp and the singing polished and stylish, with Joshua, in particular, conveying infectious delight in this sophisticated music. For more adventurous selections and a stronger dramatic context, head instead for Lawrence Zazzo and Nuria Rial (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi), Sandrine Piau and Sara Mingardo (Naïve) or Patrizia Ciofi and Joyce DiDonato (Virgin). Anna Picard