Handel in Italy, Vol. 2: Performances by Mary, Sophie Bevan and Benjamin Bevan

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LABELS: Signum
ALBUM TITLE: Handel in Italy
WORKS: Vol. 2: Overture to Agrippina; Nisi Dominus – ‘Sicut sagittae’; Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno – ‘Tu del ciel ministro eletto’; Cantata: Poichè giuraro Amore; Cantata: Dalla guerra amorosa; Aci, Galatea e Polifemo – ‘Precipitoso nel mar che freme’; Quel fior che all’alba ride; Se tu non lasci amore; Sonata in G minor – Larghetto; Concerto in G; Andante in G
PERFORMER: Mary Bevan, Sophie Bevan (soprano), Benjamin Bevan (baritone); London Early Opera/Bridget Cunningham


The second volume of Bridget Cunningham’s Handel in Italy series is a jolly jumble of cantatas and excerpts from sacred and secular works from the young composer’s years in Rome, Venice, Naples and Tuscany. Behind this flowering of invention, as Cunningham points out in her notes, was a network of sophisticated aristocrats and cardinals. It was their ears that Handel seduced with his serenatas, psalm settings and oratorios.

As before, London Early Opera plays with lemon-fresh strings and lean phrasing. It doesn’t take long, however, to hunger for something richer and more calorific and a programme of tighter focus. The oboes are challenged by the figures in the overture to Agrippina and their tone is wan. Cunningham’s own playing is delicate, both in the Larghetto from the Harpsichord Sonata in G minor, and in the G major Concerto and Andante.

There is far more buoyancy and colour in the vocal items: Sophie Bevan’s poised reading of ‘Tu del ciel’ from Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno; Benjamin Bevan’s suave Dalla guerra amorosa, and Mary Bevan’s dark-toned, expressive performance of Poichè giuraro Amore, recorded for the first time here. All three sing together in the delicious Quel fior che all’alba ride and Se tu non lasci amore, making a persuasive argument for a complete survey of the chamber cantatas.


Anna Picard