Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno
~ HWV 46a ~

Virgin Classics 363428-2
2 CDs
full price
Recorded in 2004 & 2006.
Released in 2007.

Belleza: Natalie Dessay, soprano
Piacere: Ann Hallenberg, mezzo-soprano
Disinganno: Sonia Prina, contralto
Tempo: Pavol Breslik, tenor

Le Concert d'Astrťe (on period instruments)
Director: Emmanuelle HaÔm






Emmanuelle HaÔm is rightly interested in Handelís early works. Already brilliant, the young composer compares himself to the virtuoso writing of his Italian elders, and often appears to be both dazzling and showing the abyss of humanity he will explore later. Some clumsiness just adds to the charm of these most enjoyable Italian scores. The allegorical Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno (Handelís first oratorio) was first performed in Rome in 1707 and deals with the hesitations of Bellezza (Beauty), who swears to be faithful to Piacere (Pleasure) but is recalled to come back on the virtuous way by Tempo (Time) and Disinganno (Truth).

The first achievement of this recording is to have cast three high voices with strong personalities and very different timbres. Here is probably Natalie Dessayís best Handelian performance. Her singing fits Handelís music better than before, and we can now start to believe she could be a Handelian singer. Furthermore, her slightly acid timbre fits well this inevitably fleeting Beauty. Ann Hallenberg is an excellent singer; sometimes miscast, here she perfectly fits the part, and her seduction and buon canto are just irresistible. Sonia Prina has tough competition from Nathalie Stutzmann (under Minkowski) and Sara Mingardo (under Rinaldo Alessandrini), but she manages to reach the same standard in fine declamatory singing. Tenor Pavlo Breslik doesnít really have the technique for Tempoís part, but his dramatic qualities make his performance quite convincing. With very different (and sometimes debatable) choices than her colleagues (tempi, instrumentation, continuo realization, etc.), E. HaÔmís approach does not lack charm and interest. Nevertheless, Alessandriniís (Opus 111, 2001) and Minkowskiís (Erato, 1988) recordings are still essential. Alessandriniís is probably the finest. Though Minkowskiís cast is less satisfying and the whole is less accurate, his recording is the most sympathetic of all, having this ardour which is essential to this work and a close sound recording resulting in an emotional proximity the others lack. However, having three very good and interesting recordings of a dramatic work is a rare pleasure.

© Philippe Gelinaud - July 2007

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