La Resurrezione

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: La Resurrezione
PERFORMER: Camilla Tilling & Kate Royal (sopranos), Sonia Prina (contralto), Toby Spence (tenor), Luca Pisaroni (bass-baritone); Le Concert d’Astrée/Emmanuelle Haïm (harpsichord, organ)
CATALOGUE NO: 694 5670

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This is a performance of breath-taking clarity. Emmanuelle Haïm’s reading trumps its rivals, which, even if directed by the likes of Marc Minkowski and Marco Vitale, lack her vision. Handel’s excitement about the forces at his disposal – the bravura of soprano Margherita Durastanti, the virtuosity of band leader Arcangelo Corelli, the variety of the band’s instruments – oozes from his score. Responding in like manner, Haïm’s reading exudes Handelian energy to animate the libretto that fired his inspiration.

This being Baroque music, key expressive means in La Resurruzione are opaque to all but the most highly trained performers. The artists under Haïm respond brilliantly to this challenge: mind-bogglingly difficult passagi are executed with flair, aching lyricism emerges through ornamentation, and rhetorical flourishes spring to life. Separate vocal numbers become compelling statements inflected with a singer’s particular colours; the dark hues of Kate Royal are especially seductive in this regard.

In the work’s ongoing dialogue about suffering and triumph, the instrumentalists make crucial contributions: the tender comforting of woodwinds and the announcements of hope by the horns are here carefully shaped and finely interwoven. However rich the scoring becomes, Haïm maintains the warmth and delicacy of the chamber sensibility for which this work was conceived. The clarity of sound reproduction, especially of the plucked instruments, elegantly captures the sound world that Haïm recreates.

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Haïm’s interpretation contrasts strongly with that of Marco Vitale. In his recently released recording (on Brilliant) Vitale focuses on brilliance and power rather than contrast and nuance, and creates a superb mix of timbres between voices and instruments; those who love pungency may prefer his version. Ultimately, however, he does less justice to the libretto than does Haïm. Hers is a benchmark interpretation, surpassing even her performance of the work at the Barbican this year. Berta Joncus