Handel: Aci, Galatea e Polifemo

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LABELS: Dynamic
WORKS: Aci, Galatea e Polifemo
PERFORMER: Ruth Rosique, Sara Mingardo, Antonio Abete; Orchestra Barocca; Cappella della Pietà de’ Turchini/Antonio Florio

Born in Germany, Handel was made in Italy. After failing to land a permanent position in Florence, the 21-year-old continued south to Rome, birthplace of Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno and La resurrezione, then to Naples, where Aci, Galatea e Polifemo was first performed in 1708. Radically different in style to the landscaped elegance of his 1718 English serenata, Acis and Galatea, this early treatment of the same transformation myth crackles with invention and colour. The influence of Corelli is clear – in the limpid Siciliana and breezy Act II Sonata – but the swagger and psychological sensitivity is that of a composer whose operas would soon dominate London.
Antonio Florio’s live recording with the Naples-based Orchestra Barocca Cappella della Pietà de’ Turchini is sharply characterised. Oboe, recorder and trumpet obbligato solos are vivacious, while the gut strings have home-spun warmth and provide an energetic bass-line for the monster Polifemo’s flat-footed seductions and precipitous rages. Allowances should be made for vivid vocal acting: bass Antonio Abete’s gnarled cyclops is a fearsome, reckless thing, but mezzo-soprano Sara Mingardo’s Galatea and soprano Ruth Rosique’s Aci never lose their poise. Both enjoy some of Handel’s most sensual writing and a duet of touching delicacy. Most startling is Aci’s ‘Versi già l’alma col sangue’, with shades of Dixit Dominus in its shivering suspensions. Anna Picard