Sandrine Piau

Handel: Between Heaven & Earth

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French soprano Sandrine Piau, despite her frequent appearances on Baroque recordings, may not seem a first choice for the sheer athleticism of Handel, but wait until you hear her. Piau substitutes grace, precision, and sheer beauty for brawn, and the results are astonishing. She chooses arias ideally suited to her talents. "Rejoice greatly," from Messiah, is full of spiky flash, and lengthy pieces like "Prophetic raptures swell my breast" (track 12), from Joseph and His Brethren, are beautifully developed, with Piau sliding with impossible smoothness into high notes in the later stages. Passagework in faster pieces is a shower of bright sparks, while in "Sweet bird," from L'allegro, il penseroso, ed il moderato (track 16), you will become deliciously disoriented after a while as to whether it is Piau or one of the instruments providing the bird effects. The Accademia Bizantina under violinist/director Stefano Montanari provides the more conventional zip that lets Piau's subtler approach weave its remarkable spell. With the usual striking graphics from Naïve and excellent notes unpacking the album's theme of the interpenetration of sacred and secular in Handel's oratorio-heavy world, this is a superb vocal recording. If you had to complain of one thing, it's that there's a slight disconnect between sound and syntax in Piau's treatment of English, but with beauty like this you won't care. Texts are in French, English, and Italian, where that is the original.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
La La Resurrezione, HWV 47
1 4:34
Theodora, HWV 68
2 0:38
3 3:34
A Song for St Cecilia's Day, HWV 76
4 8:46
Messiah, HWV 56
5 3:52
Theodora, HWV 68
6 1:26
Alexander Balus, HWV 65
7 4:37
8 0:29
9 0:44
10 2:48
Joseph and His Brethren, HWV 59
11 0:29
12 8:07
L' L'Allegro, Il Moderato, Ed Il Penseroso, HWV 55
13 6:11
Solomon, HWV 67
14 2:49
L' L'Allegro, Il Moderato, Ed Il Penseroso, HWV 55
15 0:49
16 12:40
Concerto Grosso in B flat major, Op. 3 No. 2
17 2:40
Samson, HWV 57
18 5:10
Il Trionfo Del Tempo E Del Disinganno, HWV 46a
19 1:00
20 5:25
blue highlight denotes track pick