'O little town of Bethlehem' Anon
This really is as close to perfection as one could hope for.
Repertoire: Streams of Pleasure
Artist: Karina Gauvin, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Il Complesso Barocco/Alan Curtis
Label: Naïve v5261
The Music: Handel’s late oratorios, combining operatic fireworks with familiar Biblical stories told in English, were a huge success with 18th century audiences. This selection of arias and duets taken from them is hallmark Handel – memorable melodies, spectacular, virtuoso vocal lines, and an unerring sense of drama. This is startlingly direct, moving music.
The Performance: Canadians Karina Gauvin and Marie-Nicole Lemieux are particularly well-matched vocally – Gauvin’s soprano has a warm timbre that blends beautifully with Lemieux’s deep, dusky contralto. Individually too, they are fabulous – Lemieux’s opening ‘destructive war’ is a dramatic tour de force. The heart of the disc is the profound, moving duet ‘Streams of Pleasure’, from Theodora. Perhaps taken out of context from the oratorios’ dramatic journeys, some of the music loses a little of its raw power. Still, the singing and playing is close to perfect.
The Verdict: These polished, beautifully balanced performances are a pleasure to listen to – a good introduction to Handel’s dramatic oratorios that will leave you wanting to hear more.
Want More? Handel’s Theodora (DG Archiv 469 0612) – discover the entire drama in this excellent interpretation by the Gabrieli consort and Players with Paul McCreesh.