Handel in Italy

A superb interpretation of a composer seeking inspiration from new sources.

Composer: Handel
Repertoire: Il Caro Sassone 
Artists: Lucy Crowe (sop), The English Concert/Harry Bicket
Rating: 4/5

Genre: Vocal

Label: Harmonia Mundi HMU 907559

The Music: As a young man, Handel – like all other aspiring composers of his time – looked to Italy as the undisputed world leader in all matters musical. He spent the years 1707 to 1710 living south of the Alps absorbing Italian lyricism. Lucy Crowe’s disc includes secular and religious arias and a complete cantata from this early period of Handel’s life. 

The Performance: With this recital, Crowe cements her star status in the Baroque world. Her technique is dazzling (hearing her diminuendo and crescendo on a high A in a trumpet-and-drums aria from La Resurrezione is a joy in itself), her voice is pure and fresh, and she’s a natural communicator. She’s chosen a varied programme too, encompassing a range of emotions from the flirtatious to the forlorn. Just occasionally her sparing use of vibrato can make her vocal purity seem a shade glacial, but there’s warmth aplenty in Harry Bicket’s edge-of- seat conducting of The English Concert.

The Verdict: Although the music doesn’t display the emotional depth and maturity
 of Handel’s late operas and oratorios, this is a fascinating and beautifully performed portrait of a genius composer flexing his wings. 

Want More? There’s more superb Handel singing on Furore, a collection of mad scenes sung by mezzo Joyce diDonato (Virgin Classics, 519 0382).