My Personal Handel Collection

Berlin Classics 0017572BC
1 CD
full price
Recorded in 2001.
Released in 2003.

  • "Di, cor mio" (Alcina)

  • "Cease, rule of the day" (Hercules)

  • "Ho un non so che nel cor" (La Resurrezione)

  • "Thy sentence, great king" (Solomon)

  • "Can I see my infant gor'd?" (Solomon)

  • "My vengeance awakes me" (Athalia)

  • "Son qual stanco" (Arianna in Creta)

  • "Destero dall' empia dite" (Amadigi)

  • "With darkness deep" (Theodora)

  • "O had I Jubal's Lyre" (Joshua)

  • "Piangero" (Giulio Cesare)

  • "Affanni del pensier" (Ottone)

  • "V' adoro pupille" (Giulio Cesare)

  • "Volate amori" (Ariodante)

Lynne Dawson (soprano)

Lautten Compagney (on period instruments)
Director: Wolfgang Katschner

Here is a treat of singing. This disc is a selection from a wide variety of cruelly taxing roles and emotions, few of which Handel wrote for the same singer. The highlights are ‘Piangero’ (Giulio Cesare), ‘Affani’ (Ottone), and ‘Ho un non so’ (La Resurrezione) because Lynne Dawson’s voice eminently suits, respectively, their pathos, mental agony, and unalloyed joy. ‘Destero’ (Amadigi) is splendidly fiery, the voice wonderfully on the note. In both of the rapturous arias, the leaps are negotiated with considerable aplomb.

The bravura defiance of ‘My vengeance’ (Athalia) finds the voice more pussycat than angry tigress; those “aways” are just not imperious enough. But Dawson’s persuasively attractive voice saves the day. The complex emotional and moral problems in ‘Cease ruler’ (Hercules) and ‘With darkness deep’ (Theodora) make singing them an exceptionally demanding task for any singer-actor. Purchasers should disregard the fatuous liner-note stating that ‘Cease ruler’ is a lament: it is a wife’s plea for her husband’s death to end the adultery that she has convinced herself he is guilty of. Dejanira chillingly means exactly what she says. The air from Theodora is about suicide. So these two airs are very grim stuff indeed, which Ms Dawson despatches creditably. That they are insufficiently dramatic is the fault of the orchestra, not her.

Wolfgang Katschner leads a small string band, directing from the theorbo – the harpsichord is fast becoming an endangered continuo species. The orchestral sound is just too thin for ‘V’adoro’ (Giulio Cesare), even when an additional theorbo substitutes for a harp. However, the strumming of these theorbos injects rumbustious verve into the movements from Terpsichore, leaving me wanting to hear more of this ballet. But when accompanying the voice they distract from the vocal sensitivity which Dawson brings to all her items. Katschner misreads ‘Cease ruler’ by burdening it with an organ, though the quartet sonority that he imposes on the concertino accompaniment to ‘Cease ruler’ and ‘Affani’ (gloriously sung) proves effective.

Whatever one’s reservations about the predilection for small string bands for Handel performances, these meagre resources allow singers of Lynne Dawson’s quality to make recordings. If you are prepared to accept the shortcomings in the orchestral sound, then this is a fine disc. Buy it for the limpid, brilliant voice, our delight in which is the purpose of the enterprise.

© Les Robarts - May 2003

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