La Nuova Musica / David Bates

Handel: Il Pastor Fido

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Fresh from his triumph with the opera Rinaldo in 1711, George Frideric Handel offered the rather odd pastoral tale Il pastor fido (The Faithful Shepherd) as a follow-up the next year. The opera bombed, and he later substantially revised it, substituting many of the arias with known hits and regularizing the opera's contours a good deal. One can understand what contemporary audiences disliked in the work, which doesn't even get underway until after a massive six-part overture and has a pretty flaky plot once it does. Recordings of this 1712 version are rare, and yet one can understand why the new historical-performance group La Nuova Musica and its conductor David Bates were drawn to it: it's a curious work with all kinds of illustrative effects heard few other places in Handel's output, and some very fancy vocal writing that requires the lead singers to balance calm pastoral tunes against extreme athletics, all in a modest, chamber-like framework. Bates sets the dimensions of that framework effectively with his small orchestra of 18 players, bringing out the details hidden in the oboe, recorder, and bassoon parts. He keeps the continuo group quiet, a contrast with the usual percussively banging continuo parts; it works well in this modest work. All this leaves room for the singers, who aren't tremendously expressive but are equal to anything Handel throws at them, and that's saying a lot. You might or might not enjoy the strenuous passagework of the arias here, but there's an X factor working in the recording's favor: the whole thing hangs together nicely, and that is to Bates' credit. Recommended for Handel enthusiasts despite over-resonant church sound from Harmonia Mundi that is at odds with the spirit of the performance.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Il Pastor Fido
1 4:39
2 5:08
3 2:18
4 2:23
5 4:20
6 3:21
7 5:09
8 0:50
9 2:42
10 1:00
11 1:10
12 3:50
13 0:34
14 1:15
15 7:06
16 0:37
17 4:24
18 3:34
19 1:26
20 6:41
21 0:26
22 3:21

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Il Pastor Fido
1 0:42
2 3:10
3 2:52
4 1:01
5 2:06
6 0:40
7 0:41
8 3:34
9 1:03
10 3:09
11 0:29
12 3:44
13 0:42
14 4:27
15 0:48
16 4:01
17 0:12
18 0:41
19 5:44
20 0:21
21 2:31
22 0:38
23 1:57
24 5:00
25 0:37
26 7:04
27 2:59
28 0:25
29 0:53
30 1:32
31 2:17
32 1:17
33 2:13
34 0:42
35 4:14
36 0:35
37 3:22
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