Enchantresses: arias from Lotario, Rinaldo, Alcina, Giulio Cesare in Egitto etc; Concerto Grosso No. 4 in A minor, Op. 6 – excerpts etc.
Sandrine Piau (soprano); Les Paladins/Jérôme Correas
Alpha Classics ALPHA 765 72:08 mins
In this dazzling album, Sandrine Piau crowns her legacy as a Baroque prima donna. Here Piau mines her intimate knowledge of the material to bring startling originality to Handel’s sorceress-heroine arias. You may recognise a title, but much of the music will be new, as her informed additions subvert the original melodies and unleash a ferocious vocalism. Piau’s happy waywardness is matched by Les Paladins, whose director Jérôme Correas is a longstanding musical partner of hers.
Piau chose her numbers to probe the feelings of what she calls ‘powerful, often wounded women’, whose ability to enchant – musically, erotically, rhetorically – is their downfall. Her facility for conveying steeliness and vulnerability within the same aria is striking. Thus the abandoned Alcina’s trembling brokenness in the opening of ‘Ah! mio cor!’ gives way to the raw muscle of Piau’s sudden sforzandos, and in the arcs and plunges she inserts into the repeat of the aria’s first section. Thus the triumphant Melissa (‘Desterò dall’empia dite’) strides grandly through registers in rivalry with the solo trumpet part, yet turns soft and subtle in Piau’s bridge passages. Correas and the band add their own magic: whirlwind tempos, extravagant continuo realisations and slightly off-beat entries keep us guessing what the instrumentalists will do next. Handel confections have rarely been more deliciously served.