Lea Desandre / Sabine Devieilhe / Emmanuelle Haïm

Handel: Italian Cantatas

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Handel's Italian cantatas date from early in his career, with few exceptions (none on display here). As a group they are less well-known than his operas, but they're equally virtuosic, and performances of the cantatas whole, as with the three here, are a bit more satisfying than with the operas. The cantatas were composed for parties among powerful Roman cardinals, and they catch the young Handel at the peak of his first success, as Roman audiences hailed him as "il caro Sassone" (the dear Saxon). The arias are fancy and a bit brash, and one key to a good performance is to catch this quality. Both the singers here, French soprano Sabine Devieilhe and French-Italian mezzo Lea Desandre, are up-and-comers, and they offer fine, dramatically enthusiastic performances. The highlight is perhaps the first cantata of the set, Aminta e Fillide, HWV 83, where the contrast between the sparkling Devieilhe and the silvery-voiced Desandre is a pleasure in itself. This is a pastoral where the long-suffering shepherd gets the girl, for a change, even though she dismisses Cupid's charms (sample Desandre in "Fu scherzo, fu gioco," with its quiet high notes). The second and third works are solo cantatas, one for each singer, and Desandre effectively changes gears for subtle interactions with an active continuo cello. Both singers are aided superbly by Le Concert d'Astrée under Emmanuelle Haïm, a veteran group by this time but one that sounds entirely fresh in this delightful vocal program.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Aminta e Fillide, HWV 83
1 2:02
2 3:04
3 0:38
4 4:33
5 0:34
6 3:11
7 1:16
8 5:15
9 1:23
10 3:16
11 0:32
12 4:13
13 0:17
14 4:31
15 0:39
16 3:05
17 0:42
18 3:20
19 0:27
20 4:48
21 0:13
22 5:17

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
1:07
2
5:05
3
0:25
4
0:44
5
2:41
6
1:02
7
4:40
8
3:15
9
2:42
10
2:57
11
2:00
12
0:50
13
4:18
14
0:43
15
3:06
16
0:37
17
0:33
18
3:11
19
0:51
20
1:16
21
0:32
Armida abbandonata, HWV 105
22 1:07
23 5:05
24 0:25
25 0:44
26 2:41
27 1:02
28 4:40
Trio Sonata in B Minor, Op. 2/1, HWV 386b
29 3:15
30 2:42
31 2:57
32 2:00
Lucrezia, HWV 145
33 0:50
34 4:18
35 0:43
36 3:06
37 0:37
38 0:33
39 3:11
40 0:51
41 1:16
42 0:32
blue highlight denotes track pick