Handel's Giove in Argo (Jupiter in Argos) is bottom-of-the-barrel stuff, a pastiche (or, in the parlance of the time, pasticcio) of numbers from earlier operas stitched together into a mythological-pastoral plot that is absurd even by the standards of Baroque opera. It is a notable sign of the success of the Baroque opera revival that this has appeared on a semi-major label, Virgin Classics. The pieces were all from operas that were fairly recent at the time, and it's possible that the work was intended as a kind of greatest-hits reprise, but London audiences did not bite; the opera was long thought to be lost, and it had its modern premiere only in 2006, with newly written recitatives.
Richter actually made a full set of recordings for Handel's Concerti Grossi. The Munich Bach Orchestra, who almost played exclusively for Richter, maintained its essential baroque flur throughout all the pieces, under the impeccable conducting of Richter. The different string sections played as if they were in a chorus, each minute part played in fully melodious and engaging manner, while the ensemble as a whole displayed all the required congeniality and harmoniousness essential of the baroque style. The rhythms are enlivened while contrasts striking, and you will seldom find Handel's works played in such grand style as did Richter and the Munich Bach Orchestra here. (Amazon.com)
La Resurrezione, composed in Rome in 1708, was Handel’s first oratorio on a sacred theme. The soloists take the roles of an Angel, Mary Magdalene, Mary Cleophas, St John and Lucifer, who are portrayed in vivid operatic terms with the help of a lavishly-scored orchestra. The distinguished Dutch keyboard-player and conductor Ton Koopman (b.1944) founded the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra in 1979. The group consists of internationally renowned baroque specialists. Conductor and orchestra are joined here by singers acknowledged as leading specialists in the baroque repertoire.
Agrippina – a portrayal of lust and power set in first century Rome – was first performed in December 1709 at the Teatro San Giovanni Crisostomo, Venice. This "arrangement" by John Eliot Gardiner was recorded in 1991/2 in London and has now been re-released. It was Handel's second and last opera to be composed during his time in Italy, from 1706 to 1710. Written against some resistance (the composer at first saw "no good reason" to write (such) an opera) in three weeks while in Venice, it represented the first such popular acclaim of Handel's career being performed over two dozen times in succession.
Fernando is the abandoned first draft of Handel’s opera Sosarme (performed at the King’s Theatre in February 1732)… Curtis’s pacing and shaping of Handel’s music is consistently subtle, astutely rhetorical and firmly connected to the libretto text. Although it might be possible to explore firmer muscularity and create a more vivid sense of surprise in the quicker music, there is something to be said for Curtis’s shrewd reservation of such effects for when it is truly vital for the drama. For instance, Marianna Pizzolato’s powerful arias “Vado al campo” and “Cuor di madre e cuor di moglie” are potently delivered moments of severe agitated passion that are all the more effective for the sweeter elegance that pervades much of this lovely score. The sublime duet “Per le porte” is sung with poetic intimacy by Lawrence Zazzo and Veronica Cangemi. Zazzo sings his elegantly heroic aria “Alle sfere della gloria” with supple clarity. Max Emanuel Cencic is impressive as the reticent Sancio, unwilling to be used as a pawn in his ruthless grandfather Altomaro’s Machiavellian plans to tear the royal family apart. Antonio Abete gives an ideal account of the villain’s arias… Fernando is one of Curtis’s most consistent and pleasing Handel opera recordings. (David Vickers, Gramophone)
This is the best recording so far of Partenope. Krisztina Laki is splendid in the lead role as is Helga Muller-Molinari as Rosmira and John York Skinner as Armindo. Rene Jacobs in the counter-tenor role of Arsace does a fine job considering the date of this recording. The orchestra plays with great vitality. This is the recommended recording of this opera.
This recording is the first official release in any format of this once-in-a-lifetime concert performance featuring Dame Joan Sutherland and Fritz Wunderlich. In 1959 performances of Handel were just beginning to embrace the original instrument movement making this recording an invaluable historic record of performance practice. In addition to musicological interest, the CDs present Joan Sutherland at the beginning of her illustrious career in the full bloom of youth. She was flown in as a last minute replacement for the scheduled soprano and proceeded to give a virtuoso performance of the demanding title role. Full of Handel's gorgeous melodies and with vocal fireworks in bountiful supply, it is no wonder that Sutherland completely awed the German public. She is joined by Fritz Wunderlich, the acclaimed German tenor, in their one-and-only collaboration. He as well was a last minute replacement and rises to the exacting demands of Handel. His rich and pliant tone is perfectly suited to the technical and dramatic demands of the opera.
Following in their series of Gramophone Award and BBC Music Magazine Award winning recordings, Gabrieli’s first Handel recording in over a decade is particularly special – recreating in painstaking detail the very first performance of L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, given in 1740, with additional instrumental repertoire including a Handel organ concerto and two concerti grossi. With a reputation as peerless Handelians, Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort & players bring meticulous research to every performance and recording project, and are joined on this disc by a stunning selection of soloists.
A warm welcome back for this 1977 recording of Handel’s most successful opera, which ran, in 1727, for an unprecedented 19 performances. Curtis and his team were visionary 20 years ago. Recitative is lively, declaimed rather than fully sung; vocal decorations sound spontaneous, period instruments are played with zest and polish – barely a sour note from the handful of strings; colours include a trio of oboes and bassoon and, accompanying Bowman in fine voice, a pair of horns for what Dr Burney described as ‘one of the best and most agreeable hunting songs that was ever composed’. Jacobs reflects the volatile title role, impassioned in his death-bed scene which opens the opera, virtuosic elsewhere, though his affected swoops become rather predictably mannered. Yakar and Gomez sing Alceste and Antigone, roles which Handel wrote for Faustina and Cuzzoni, whose jealous rivalry led them, on stage, to ‘call Bitch and Whore’ and ‘pull each other’s coiffs’! Here, Faustina could not more beautifully have ‘sung adagios with great passion and expression’ than Yakar, while Gomez surely matches Cuzzoni’s ability to ‘conceal every appearance of difficulty’ – contemporary descriptions of their outstanding powers. You may want to tweak tone controls to moderate the bright, remastered sound. (George Pratt BBC Music Magazine)