Handel: Handel in Italy – Solo Cantatas HWV 110, 113, 142 & 173; Concerto a Quattro in D

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COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Handel
WORKS: Handel in Italy – Solo Cantatas HWV 110, 113, 142 & 173; Concerto a Quattro in D
PERFORMER: Emma Kirkby (soprano); London BaroqueBIS SACD-1695 (hybrid CD/SACD)
CATALOGUE NO: SACD-1695

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Handel, in his early twenties, responded to his outstanding success in Italy with music full of confidence, bravura and an extraordinarily musical invention. Emma Kirkby responds with no less imagination. There are occasional echoes of that unmistakeable seraphic purity which first distinguished her voice, but the emotional palette is far wider now. She sings four solo cantatas, written for the weekly gatherings of Roman nobles and church dignitaries, distinguished musicians and literati. These showpieces make immense technical demands – the voice like a concerto soloist in the final aria of Figlio d’alte speranze, HWV 133, and an equal partner to strings as Handel shows off his Teutonic contrapuntal skills in a rare fugue in Notte placida e cheta, HWV142. But splendid though such displays are, it is her sense of characterisation which sets her apart. She can ‘rejoice, laugh and hope’ with palpable rapture (Un’ alma innamorata, HWV173), change mood like quicksilver in the great Scena of Agrippina (HWV110) where the queen, condemned to death by her own son, swings schizophrenically from inconsolable despair to furious anger. London Baroque lends admirable support, with Terence Charlston’s continuo realisations adding to the drama. SACD spaciousness is superb, Kirkby positioned in front with harpsichord an equal to the strings, able to provide bass support alone in a Concerto a Quattro. Outstanding.