Handel Arias

Deutsche Grammophon 477 6541
1 CD
full price
Recorded in 1959.
Reissued in 2007.


- But who may abide the day of His coming
- How beautiful, are the feet

Israel in Egypt
- Their land brought forth frogs
- Thou shalt bring them in

Muzio Scevola
- Ah dolce nome!

- Vivi, tiranno!
- Dove sei, amato bene

- Ombra cara

Russsell Oberlin, countertenor
Albert Fuller, harpsichord
Baroque Chamber Orchestra
Director: Thomas Dunn

The release on CD of this recording first published in 1959 was eagerly awaited for a very long time. ‘Rival’ to Alfred Deller, but with his career put to an end at the age of 36, Russell Oberlin is already part of legend. To listen to a countertenor sing Handel arias with ornamented da capos and some cadenzas, though sometimes clumsy, in the late 1950s was doubtlessly exceptional in an era when the habits were rather to sing only the A section of da capos and to transpose male soprano or alto parts to tenors, baritones and basses. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau recorded bits of Giulio Cesare under Böhm in 1960, and singers lide Walter Berry, Boris Christoff or Fritz Wunderlich sang transposed parts in the mid or late 1960’s. 

Though listening to this recording one can guess some weaknesses that are clear on some of Oberlin’s other recordings (for example the Bach cantata BWV 54 recorded with Glenn Gould), here we mainly experience a prodigious voice, dense, lyrical and with registers perfectly united, and used in really clever, sensible and musical ways. The inherent qualities of the voice make the singing quite declamatory without being emphatic, very different to the main stream of Handelian interpretation of that time. Here is an extraordinary document, a CD essential to any baroque music lover.

© Philippe Gelinaud - July 2007

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