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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.
George Frideric Handel: Notte placida e cheta, HWV 142
Recitative: Notte placida e cheta - Aria: Zeffiretti, deh venite
Recitative: Momento fortunato - Aria: Per un istante
Accompagnato: Ma gia sento che spande - Aria: Luci belle, vaghe stelle
Accompagnato: Oh delizie d'amor satie mie voglie - Aria: Che non si da
George Frideric Handel: Un'alma innamorata, HWV 173
Recitative: Un' alma innamorata - Aria: Quel povero core
Recitative: E pur benche egli veda - Aria: lo godo, rido e spero
Recitative: In quanto a me ritrovo - Aria: Ben impari come se ama
George Frideric Handel: Concerto a 4 in D major (attrib. G.F.Telemann)
I. Con contento
George Frideric Handel: Figlio d'alte speranze, HWV 113
Recitativo: Figlio d'alte speranze - Aria: Troppo costa ad un' alma
Recitativo: Era conforto il suo penar - Aria: Sia guida sua stella
Recitativo: In cosi dir previde - Aria: Brillava protetto
George Frideric Handel: Dunque sara pur vero, HWV 110, "Agrippina condotta a morire"
Recitative: Dunque sara ur vero
Aria: Orrida, oscura, l'etra si renda
Recitative: Ma pria che d'empia morte
Aria: Renda cenere il tiranno
Recitative: Si, si, del gran tiranno
Aria and Recitative: Come, o Dio! - Forsenneta … - Si, si … - Incanta … - Cada lacero … - Sparga quel … - Come, o Dio!
Aria: Se infelice al mondo vissi! - Ma vendetta almen faro
Recitative: Trema l'ingrato figlio
Aria: Su lacerate il seno
Recitative: Ecco a morte gia corro
24th August 2008
“Emma Kirkby, a seasoned Handelian, brings her considerable artistry to bear on some of [Handel's] most bold, moving and exciting music. Occasionally, particularly in the tragic 'Agrippina condotta a morire', one yearns for slightly darker shades than her naturally sunny voice can provide. Even so, here and in 'Notte placida e cheta', 'Un’ alma innamorata' and 'Figlio d’alte speranze', she and the [musicians] of London Baroque relish to the full the dramatic genius destined shortly to take London by storm.”
“Emma Kirkby… sings four solo cantatas… These showpieces make immense technical demands… But splendid though such displays are, it is her sense of characterisation which sets her apart. She can 'rejoice, laugh and hope' with palpable rapture (Un' alma innamorata, HWV173), change mood like quicksilver in the great Scena of Agrippina (HWV110) where the queen, condemned to death by her own son, swings schizophrenically from inconsolable despair to furious anger. Outstanding.”
“Emma Kirkby… is on superb form. Her interpretative intelligence and attention to words are a given but she can also catch a subtle mood, as in "Quel povero core" from Un' alman innamorata, whose sense of resigned torment is enhanced by a sensitive contribution from the solo violin.”
“The largest single legacy of Handel's years in Italy (in his early twenties) were around 100 chamber cantatas, from which Emma Kirkby and London Baroque have picked out four excellent examples from the 30 or so featuring one or two violins alongside the solo voice and continuo. In this they face strong competition from La Risonanza's series with Italian singers on Glossa, but the clash does no damage to either group as both have distinct virtues. For some, of course, the presence of Emma Kirkby will be enough to seal the deal, and indeed she is on superb form. Early on there are a few signs of a lack of her usual instrumental precision; but by the time she is showing off her artless virtuosity in the final aria of Figlio d'alte speranze and striding easily through 'Orrida, oscura', the first aria of the compellingly dramatic Agrippina condottaa morire, all worries have long been banished. Her interpretative intelligence and attention to words are a given but she can also catch a subtle mood, as in 'Quel povero core' from Un' almainnamorata, whose sense of resigned torment is enhanced by a sensitive contribution from the solo violin. Emanuela Galli captures this kind of intimate emotion even more affectingly in La Risonanza's performances, mind, but with a touch less vocal security. The recorded sound, as often in London Baroque's recordings for BIS, is strangely resonant and steely. The 'Concerto a quattro' included here is claimed as a Handel work in its German 18th-century source but sounds like nothing of the kind.”
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