Handel: Ombra mai fù: music from Admeto, Serse, Giulio Cesare, Radamisto,

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Ombra mai fù: music from Admeto, Serse, Giulio Cesare, Radamisto,
PERFORMER: Andreas Scholl (countertenor); Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901685
As he approaches the giddy heights of stardom, countertenor Andreas Scholl leaves the label that has nurtured him (Harmonia Mundi) and is embraced by one for celebrities (Decca). Coming fortuitously together this month are Scholl’s last solo disc for HM, an attractive selection of Handelian items under the heading ‘Ombra mai fù’, and his first for Decca, entitled ‘Heroes’, predominantly Handel (also including the ubiquitous ‘Ombra mai fù’) but with additional arias by Hasse, Gluck and Mozart.

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‘Ombra mai fù’ is the only duplication and each programme is well chosen both for quality of music and for displaying Scholl’s art. HM offers the bracing Akademie für Alte Musik (no conductor credited), who interpolate instrumental numbers from several of the operas featured; Decca, which gives Scholl the equally stylish OAE under Roger Norrington, includes Hasse’s celebrated ‘Palido il sole’ (Artaserse), two arias by Gluck (including the evergreen ‘Che farò’) and two by Mozart.

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Both discs show Scholl at his inimitable best: superbly accomplished and fully inside each character in turn. Indeed, so exuberant is he in ‘Va tacito’ (Giulio Cesare) that both he and the virtuoso horn player are carried away to heights of absurdity in their ornamentation. Otherwise beyond criticism. Barry Millington