Handel – Dualità
Arias from Arianna in Creta, Amadigi di Gaula, Partenope, Radamisto, Alcina, Faramondo etc
Emőke Baráth (soprano); Artaserse/Philippe Jaroussky
Erato 9029637062 72:21 mins
Soprano Emőke Baráth is the featured soloist of this album, but our attention is grabbed by the name of another singer, Philippe Jaroussky. This is the star countertenor’s first commercial recording as a conductor. Jaroussky lets himself be led by Baráth, whose affective intensity and technical brilliance are most powerfully displayed in her extravagant additions.
Sticking to the score or not, she provides a sonic feast: rich bottom-register timbre, brilliant yet voluptuous top notes and a pure core that energises even her longest lines. Baráth says she selected arias that ‘express the duality of the female soul’, and she wanders most from Handel’s music when passions collide. Through super-size leaps and dizzying upward spirals, she gets something new even out of Cleopatra’s and Alcina’s over-recorded arias. The band’s input here is subtle, but crucial, as tense suspensions, pulsing meters and bubbly plucked-string realisations deepen each affect. Having sung often with Baráth, and very often with Ensemble Artaserse – which he co-founded in 2002 – Jaroussky knows he can trust his colleagues. He also knows that climaxes sometimes need to be left alone. His gifts as a conductor stem from a virtuoso countertenor’s instinctive understanding of which words to weight, how best to pace a vocal-obbligato dialogue and when silence, particularly important in Handel, should prevail.
Crossing to the podium is a rare move for a vocal virtuoso, and Jaroussky sets a high bar for his very full conducting and singing schedule this year.