Handel Arias

Capriccio 71 024
1 SACD Hybrid
full price
Compilation of extracts
Released in 2005.

  • "Or la tromba" (from Rinaldo)
  • "He shall feed his flock" (from Messiah)
  • "Turn thee, youth, to joy and love" (from The Choice of Hercules)
  • "Fammi combattere" (from Orlando)
  • "Dulcis amor" (from Silete venti)
  • "Rejoice greatly" (from Messiah)
  • "Sußee Stille" (from Nine German Arias)
  • "Vivi tiranno" (from Rodelinda)
  • "This manly youth’s exalted mind" (from The Choice of Hercules)
  • "Va tacito" (from Giulio Cesare)
  • "Ombra mai fu" (from Serse)
  • "Why do the Nations" (from Messiah)
  • "Amor, nel mio penar" (from Flavio)
  • "Mount, mount the steep ascent" (from The Choice of Hercules)

Ann Monoyios, Emma Kirkby, Arleen Auger, Max Emmanuel Cencic (sopranos); Axel Köhler, Charles Humphries, Jochen Kowalski (altos); Kammerorchester CPE, Academy of London, Neues Bachisches Collegium Musicum Leipzig, Berliner Barock-Compagney, Händelfestspielorchester des Opernhauses Halle, Hartmut Haenchen (conductor), Max Pommer (conductor), Howard Arman (conductor), Peter Marschik (conductor)

Capriccio has an impressive discography of baroque music, especially Telemann and Bach performed by Hermann Max and Das Kleine Konzert, and enterprising one-offs such as Hasse’s Cleofide (the same Metastasio libretto as Handel’s Poro) conducted by William Christie. Alas, this compilation made for SACD reveals that the label has rarely scaled comparable heights in Handel repertoire.


For many years, Max Pommer’s The Choice of Hercules was the only version available on CD: it is by no means an unattractive performance, but does not justify the importance given to it here (although one can never complain about having to listen to Arleen Auger, who sings in two of the three extracts included here). Axel Köhler’s Handel opera aria recital conducted by Howard Arman is probably his finest Handelian hour, although ‘Fammi combattere’ is not one of the best arias from it, despite its inclusion here. Köhler’s ‘Va tacito’ is much better, but much of the interest of this disc is in Arman’s expert direction: it is a pity that this under-rated British conductor based in Germany and Austria has not made more recordings, despite his regular appearances over the years at the Halle festival.


Emma Kirkby’s Capriccio recording of Silete venti with Cappella Coloniensis has been difficult to obtain for some years. The tantalising inclusion of ‘Dulcis amor’ is disappointing, with Hans-Martin Linde’s direction sounding mechanical and unpersuasive, and Kirkby sounding downright detached and disinterested. Her fans might be disappointed on this evidence, but the entire recording has also been reissued by Capriccio as part of a boxed set celebrating the career of Cappella Coloniensis: the rest of the performance is happily more convincing than the extract chosen here, though only devoted admirers need go out of their way to hear it in preference to recordings by Sylvia McNair, Karina Gauvin, and Lynne Dawson.


Max Emanuel Cencic is beginning to create quite a stir in the baroque opera world, with his soprano register sounding much more assured and pleasing than most would-be castrati that made such attempts during the 1990s. His performance of some arias from Capriccio’s recording of Messiah (featuring the Vienna Boys Choir) must be one of his earliest recordings. It does not compare favourably with his more recent work, such as the excellent performance of the pasticcio Andromeda Liberata (with the Venice Baroque Orchestra, on DG Archiv). The pedestrian and rather old-fashioned orchestral performances are also evident in Jochen Kowalski’s renditions of ‘Or la tromba’ and ‘Vivi tiranno’ with the CPE Bach Chamber Orchestra. Neither performance comes to life.


In fact, the only truly first-rate performance is Ann Monoyios’ ‘Suße Stille’ from her beautiful recording of Handel’s Nine German Arias. This is a much fairer testament to the quality of Capriccio’s best work, but this version of the sublime 9 German Arias is worth acquiring in its own right. Likewise, if you are curious about the performances by Arleen Auger or Axel Köhler it would be better to find the original discs rather than invest in this strangely arbitrary and uneven compilation.

© David Vickers - March 2005

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