Baroque Arias by Purcell and Handel

COMPOSERS: Baroque Arias by Purcell and Handel
LABELS: Arte Verum
ALBUM TITLE: Endless Pleasure
PERFORMER: Barbara Hendricks (soprano); Drottingholms Baroque Ensemble

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CATALOGUE NO: ARV 003
The American-Swedish soprano Barbara Hendricks hits 50 this year, and her voice, though mature, remains rich and lovely, with a full range and some attractive half tones. The upper register works particularly well – a highlight here is the cadenza to Semele’s aria ‘Endless pleasure’, which matches Handel’s title – though one or two low notes are out of synch with the rest of the voice.

Some of the pieces would have suited Hendricks better when younger – Cleopatra’s solos from Giulio Cesare sound better with a more pristine instrument. ‘Where’er you walk’, written for the tenor voice, loses something in the soprano range and even more when performed at the gallop Hendricks and the Drottningholm musicians take it at. ‘O sleep’, also from Semele, is again too fast to make its proper impact. On the other hand, Hendricks’s musical insights are obvious in the opening Purcell group.

The Baroque ensemble throws in the ballet music from Handel’s Il pastor fido, given a spic-and-span performance, though one lacking in character. A more serious problem is the cloudy sound, which smudges Hendricks’s diction and seems to place her, oddly, behind the instruments.

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George Hall