Here is a side of Handel unfamiliar even to those knowledgeable about his music. Most of this CD is devoted to miscellaneous songs in English‚ many of them published in his time on song sheets‚ or in journals‚ or given to friends‚ or intended for use in the theatre. They are‚ generally‚ in a more popular vein than his familiar music‚ and often in the style used by such composers as Arne or Boyce‚ or lesser men‚ in their English songs. The best of them‚ to my taste‚ are the theatre songs: ‘I like the amorous youth’ is a specially charming piece‚ and ‘Love’s but the frailty of the mind’‚ a Congreve setting made for the admired actresssinger Kitty Clive‚ is an exquisite and touching little song‚ especially when sung as beautifully as it is here by Emma Kirkby.
Classical music is one of the greatest joys in life. Opera on the other hand, is often too melodramatic to stomach. But there is nothing more enchanting than an Aria. On this 2 CD set, Emma Kirkby sings in sweet exultation. Her voice expresses power and agility yet a limpid tranquility. Clarity is the greatest achievement of any musician. With the aid of precision accompaniment on period instruments, shameless perfection is delivered. She soothes the soul longing for beauty. Her marvelous Soprano is rendered on 25 tracks in this eclectic ensemble. If you are a champion of Handel or a devotee of Mozart, you should not hesitate to purchase this CD. Emma Kirkby will have you beaming with delight and pining for more. Surely it will be one of the brightest of your collection.
…The Queen Anne Ode is a solemn piece, again, a real pleasure to listen to, but not exactly a memorable showstopper. If you are a fan of Hogwood, as am I, this is a must have CD. Nothing he ever did is a complete wash, and this collection a far cry from it. This is Vintage Hogwood. Call it "Early Original Instrument."
The Orpheus in England title of this release refers to the fact that both John Dowland and Henry Purcell were honored with the "Orpheus" designation after their deaths, nearly 100 years apart. The booklet for this Swedish release even comes with an anonymous poem telling the deceased Purcell to "Touch but thy Lyre, the Stones will come and dance themselves into a Tomb." The unusual idea of connecting the two composers, who shared a common tendency toward a mixture of melancholy and daring harmonic thinking, works well, and there are many lovely moments here. Some come from lutenist Jakob Lindberg, who delivers limpid readings of some Dowland standards and arranges a group of Purcell keyboard pieces for lute.
During his years in Italy (1706-1710), it is believed that Handel may have written as many as 150 cantatas including a number of so-called cantate con stromenti for one or more solo voices plus additional instruments. The four cantatas on this disc feature the standard combination for such works: soprano, two violins and basso continuo. Thematically, they can be grouped in pairs: Notte placida e cheta (Calm and Placid Night) and Un’ alma innamorata (A Soul in Love) tell of unhappy love and contain elements from Classical mythology against a pastoral backdrop. By contrast, Figlio d’alte speranze (Son of High Hopes) and Agrippina condotta a morire (Agrippina Led to Her Death) tell tales of the use and abuse of power.
…The orchestra, led by violinist Michi Gaigg, is a delight to hear, a finely tuned and ideally balanced ensemble whose playing gives real drive and support to the singers–and, in these world premiere recordings, makes a strong case for hearing a lot more from J.C. The sound is exemplary.