Thursday, 15 August 2019

CD Review (The Straits Times, August 2019)

Erato 0190295811693 / *****

The music of Georg Frideric Handel (1685-1759), like his close contemporary J.S.Bach, is ripe for improvisation, as demonstrated by Austrian baroque music specialist Christina Pluhar and her period instrument group L’Arpeggiata. This group’s use of jazz and world music techniques in Pluhar’s arrangements makes it stand out.

Handel’s operatic arias, sung in both Italian and English, are known for their purity, beauty and often treacherously virtuosic runs. Countertenor Valer Sabadus and soprano Nuria Rial sing these straight and without further embellishment, such as in Venti, Turbini and Cara Sposa (from Rinaldo) and Piangero La Sorte Mia (Giulio Cesare).

It is however in the instrumentation that the music takes on a different dimension. Listen to how Gianluigi Trovesi’s clarinet turns the Sinfonia from Alcina into a Klezmer dance. Or whoever thought that the familiar Where’er You Walk (Semele) could be made to sound like a close cousin of Gershwin’s I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’ (Porgy And Bess)?

The Arrival Of The Queen Of Sheba (Solomon) gets all jazzed up with Francesco Turrisi on piano, and in Canario, an improvisation based on Girolamo Kapsberger, percussionist Sergey Saprichev takes on the idiom of konnakol (Carnatic rhythmic scat singing) convincingly. 

To close, Ombra Mai Fu (Serse), better known as Handel’s Largo, Doron Sherwin’s cornet paves the way for Sabadus’ moving plaint. Old and new sit easily in the true spirit of the baroque within this fascinating album, all 75 minutes of it. 

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