Alice Coote / Harry Bicket / The English Concert

Handel Arias

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A look at the discography of soprano Alice Coote shows everything from Das Lied von der Erde to English songs, so it is not surprising that she is equipped with the technical and dramatic equipment for Handel's emotionally wide-ranging operatic arias. This is not an athletic recital but one that aims to display the performer's dramatic sense and distinctiveness in a collection of mostly well-known pieces, and Coote succeeds on both counts. She gives shape to the 11-minute Scherza infida! from Ariodante, HWV 33, while achieving sheer vocal beauty in the opening Quando mai, spietata sorte, from Radamisto, HWV 12a, and rage, despair, and love seem equally natural to her. For many listeners the chief attraction here from among various similar releases will be the presence of the venerable English Concert under Harry Bicket, who stays out of Coote's way and gives the orchestra a crisp, but not inexpressive smoothness that seems to make itself part of the singing itself. There is indeed lots of competition in the genre of Handel aria collections, but Coote stands out from the crowd.

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