Handel in Italy: Vol. 1

Sophie Bevan, Mary Bevan and Benjamin Bevan sing works composed in Italy by Handel.

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COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: Signum
ALBUM TITLE: Handel in Italy, Vol. 1
WORKS: Gloria in Excelsis Deo; Agrippina – Bel piacere e godere; Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno – Un pensiero nemico di pace; Cuopre tal volta il cielo, HWV 98 etc
PERFORMER: Sophie Bevan, Mary Bevan (soprano), Benjamin Bevan (baritone); London Early Opera/Bridget Cunningham
CATALOGUE NO: SIGCD 423

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In Venice, Florence, Naples and Rome, Handel composed music that crystallised an emerging talent. A favourite of the Marchese Ruspoli and the Cardinals Carlo Colonna, Pietro Ottoboni and Benedetto Pamphili, he also developed a skill for securing powerful patrons. The works he wrote for these men, to be performed in palaces, chapels and country estates, form the backbone of the first volume of Handel in Italy, directed from the keyboard by Bridget Cunningham. At 43 minutes duration it is more of an amuse bouche than a first course but the quality of the musicianship is high.

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Cunningham suggests a connection between Handel’s Gloria and the 1707 Roman Vespers (there are shades of the Salve Regina in ‘Et in terra pax’) and thence to Ruspoli’s estate and Margherita Durastanti rather than a soprano castrato. Sophie Bevan sings it with a full feminine tone, enchanting in the slow movements, while her sister Mary sings arias from Handel’s 1709 Venetian opera, Agrippina, and Pamphili’s allegory Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno with darker-toned, lithe brilliance. There is smart solo playing from Cunningham in the Sonata HWV 579, and from violinist Adrian Butterfield in the overture to Rodrigo, though the woodwind sound parched. The surprise is Benjamin Bevan, best known for his work in 19th and 20th-century opera but secure and stylish in the bass cantata Cuopre tal volta il cielo. Anna Picard