GRAMOPHONE AWARDS SHORTLIST 2014
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Handel ‘Pure Handel’ Water Music – Suite No 1, HWV348. Concerto grosso, Op 6 No 2 HWV320. Admeto – Overture. Ero e Leandro, HWV150a. Ah! Che troppo ineguali, HWV230a. Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno, HWV46a – Tu del ciel ministro elettoa a Maria Keohane sop European Union Baroque Orchestra / Lars Ulrik Mortensen hpd Estonian Record Productions F ERP6212 (79’ • DDD • T)
It may not look like it at first but there are three completely different orchestras on this disc. The European Union Baroque Orchestra is a course-based outfit of young professionals whose personnel changes every year, and here we have performances cut together from concerts and patch sessions by the 2008, 2010 and 2011 teams. It doesn’t sound like it, however, for there is a neartotal consistency of sound and approach, making a more than usually fitting and generous celebration of this estimable organisation’s continuing high achievement. These are live-wire performances, technically excellent and propelled with exactly the right degree of driving energy by Lars Ulrik Mortensen, a director of great imagination and musicality with a special ability to find details in the music you maybe hadn’t registered before, draw them out and thrill you with them.
But I must leave room to laud Maria Keohane, a soprano whose Handelian qualities are superbly showcased. The turbulent but lyrical Ero e Leandro could have been made for her. Bright but strong in tone, virtuoso but pressingly expressive, she also has just enough of that indefinable personal distinctiveness that can touch the heart by revealing there is a person there, not just a voice. Not that you could ever doubt that in the ‘encore’ of the final aria from Il trionfo del Tempo del Disinganno, a heart-stoppingly pure disavowal of life’s frivolous distractions in which her rapt singing is intimate with Huw Daniel’s sympathetic solo violin. Handel was young when he wrote most of this music, his growing art confident, sincere and direct. What a fine fit for these performers.Lindsay Kemp
Porpora ‘Arias for Farinelli’ Arianna e Teseo – Mira in cielo Ifigenia in Aulide – Le limpid’onde; Nel già bramoso petto Mitridate – La gioia ch’io sentoa Orfeo – Dall’amor più sventurato; Sente del mio martir Polifemo – Alto Giove; Nell’attendere il mio bene; Placidetti zefirettia Semiramide regina – Come nave in ria tempesta Semiramide riconosciuta – Se pietoso il tuo labbro Philippe Jaroussky counterten aCecilia Bartoli mez Venice Baroque Orchestra / Andrea Marcon Erato F 934133‑2 (70’ • DDD • T/t) Deluxe CD also available – 934130‑2
Philippe Jaroussky’s conceptual recital unveils Porpora’s music for his pupil
Farinelli. Frédéric Delaméa provides a fascinating essay about the overlapping careers of the star castrato and his singing teacher but the lack of information about the dramatic qualities of the arias means that an opportunity is missed to advocate Porpora’s arias as something more than flashy concert pieces. The only music familiar from several previous recordings is the gorgeous slow aria ‘Alto Giove’ from Polifemo (which competed directly with Handel’s Ariodante in 1735); Jaroussky and the Venice Baroque Orchestra give a subtly nuanced performance of the original manuscript version which includes passages that Porpora cut but it is not explained that this scene is the murdered Acis’s magical transformation into a bubbling fountain (knowledge that enlightens our appreciation of Porpora’s sublime dramatic music).
Jaroussky’s rapid passagework in quick heroic arias is precise and Cecilia Bartoli pops up for a couple of love duets but the outstanding moments are slow arias that could have been tailor-made for Jaroussky’s sweetly graceful melodic singing (‘Le limpid’onde’ from Ifigenia in Aulide). Andrea Marcon and the Venice Baroque Orchestra produce admirable sentimental finesse or gutsy brilliance as required. David Vickers
‘Arise, my Muse’ Blow Amphion Anglicus – Poor Celadon, he sighs in vain. Venus and Adonis – Suite Clarke Come, come along for a dance and a song – The Glory of the Arcadian Groves Croft Ye tuneful numbers G Gabrieli Sonata XXI Purcell Birthday Ode, Z320 – Arise, my Muse. Celebrate this festival, Z321 – Crown the altar. If music be the food of love, Z379b. Come ye sons of Art, away, Z339 – Strike the viol. Hail! bright Cecilia, Z328 – ’Tis Nature’s voice. King Arthur, Z628 – Fairest Isle. O solitude, my sweetest choice, Z406. Welcome to all the Pleasures, Z339 – Here the deities approve. Yorkshire Feast Song, Z333 – The pale and the purple rose. Fantasia: Three Parts on a Ground, Z731 Iestyn Davies counterten Richard Egarr hpd with Tabea Debus, Pamela Thorby recs Bojan Čičić, Stephen Pedder vns Julia Kuhn vn/va Mark Levy va da gamba Wliiam Carter theo/gtr Wigmore Hall Live M WHLIVE0065 (59’ • DDD • T) Recorded live, February 27, 2013
It says a lot about Iestyn Davies’s musical instincts that his second Wigmore
Hall Live disc is less a solo showcase than a chamber recital in which he is just one member of a superb ensemble cast. Led from the harpsichord by Richard Egarr, the instrumentalists here take by turns both supporting and starring roles in music from Restoration London that roams far beyond the obvious Purcell. While Davies offers appealing performances of classic works – ‘O solitude, my sweetest choice’ is exquisitely poised, and ‘Strike the viol’ is transformed from politely swaying dance into a muscular, swinging piece of folk-like abandon – some of the best things here are the least familiar. Jeremiah Clarke’s ‘The Glory of the Arcadian Groves’ unfolds into elegant melodic arabesques with support from two suitably bucolic recorders, while John Blow’s ‘Poor Celadon’ laments neglect of his beloved nymph with courtly poise, in melting phrases perfectly suited to Davies’s lovely legato.
A particular highlight is the Suite from Blow’s Venus and Adonis, in which Egarr’s band impersonate a cheeky Cupid and a heavy-footed huntsman with equal verve. Purcell’s instrumental music is represented by the Fantasia: Three Parts on a Ground – possibly the earliest surviving example of the ground basses that underpin so much of the composer’s music. False relations wink and
36 GRAMOPHONE AWARDS 2014