LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Deutsche Arien
PERFORMER: Dorothea Röschmann (soprano); Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901689
William Christie’s recent recording of Alcina, with Renée Fleming and Susan Graham, while admirable in so many ways, threw into focus the problem of finding a cast of singers truly suited to Handel. Dorothea Röschmann is one such, beyond all doubt. The combination of her clear, contained but richly coloured soprano with jewel-like detail and effortless and stylish ornamentation makes this a very special recording. She has already graced several of René Jacobs’s recordings, including the Christmas Oratorio and Telemann’s Orpheus, but this is her first solo disc.
Handel’s nine German arias, the last songs he was to write in his native language, are settings of texts of ‘Earthly delight in God, consisting of physical and moral poems’ by a certain Halle town-councillor, Barthold Heinrich Brockes. Their purpose seems to have been for semi-private contemplation, and they have a beguiling sense of intimacy. Röschmann approaches each with a fresh stance, from the serious, hymn-like ‘Vain care of times to come/Does not disturb our quiet sleep’ to the peals of sparkling ornamentation in the contemplation of the ‘murmuring rivers, gushing springs’ to the profound, sustained tour de force of ‘The soul itself rejoices’, which Röschmann controls impressively. Violin, flute and oboe from the excellent Akademie für Alte Musik alternate on the upper parts, wiry fiddle and woody oboe providing a suitably matt background against which her bell-like timbre glows. The pièce de resistance and the finest song, ‘My soul in hearing doth see/How to exalt the creator’, with its wide-leaping intervals and stately rhetoric, hints at the heroic Handel, and makes the listener impatient to hear Röschmann in one of the great operas.
‘Mr Hendel’ himself subscribed to Telemann’s Quartets of ‘table music’: agreeable as their quiet instrumental conversations are, they are outshone by Handel’s glorious melodies.