Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Handel/Ferrandini
LABELS: Archiv
WORKS: Marian Cantatas; Arias
PERFORMER: Anne Sofie von Otter (soprano)Musica Antiqua Köln/Reinhard Goebel
Handel’s stay in Italy, from 1706 to 1710, produced a clutch of early masterpieces. La resurrezione and Agrippina date from this period, as do a host of shorter works, notably several glorious cantatas on both secular and sacred themes. This CD features one of the latter, Donna, che in ciel, plus the serenely lovely antiphon ‘Haec est Regina virginum’ and the recitative plus aria ‘Ah! che troppo ineguali’, a sombre lamentation that is probably a fragment from a lost cantata.

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Donna, che in ciel, with its striking orchestral Introduzione and rapturous choral climax, is the major piece here, a tour de force of Handel’s youthful mastery. Regrettably, the disc’s other – and longer – cantata is not by Handel. Though long attributed to him, Il pianto di Maria is now believed to be the work of Giovanni Battista Ferrandini (c1710-91). Despite a haunting cavatina, it is uneven in quality and rarely inspired.

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A second drawback is that Musica Antiqua Köln sounds rather lacklustre throughout this disc. Their playing lacks buoyancy and sharpness, and their pacing often seems leaden-footed. At least Anne Sofie von Otter is in magnificent voice. Her singing, firm and assured, brilliantly conveys the music’s dramas and subtleties. But, overall, this is a disappointing release. Graham Lock