Musica Alta Ripa

Händel: Cantatas; Trio Sonatas

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Originally recorded in 1990 when the German historical-instrument chamber ensemble Musica Alta Ripa (the name refers to a Latin designation for the city of Hannover) was young, this is still among the very best recordings available for those seeking a program of Handel's smaller pieces. One strength of the program is that it resembles one that might easily have been heard in the early part of Handel's career, when he was writing music for aristocratic residences rather than for grand public events. The two secular cantatas are like operatic scenes, with Pensieri notturni di Filii: Nel dolce del' oblio, HWV 134, in a pastoral mode and Agrippina condotta a morire: Dunque sarà pur vero a full-blown tragic scene depicting Agrippina, the mother of the Roman emperor Nero, being taken to the death after the pair's fatal feud. Soprano Johanna Koslowsky delivers the requisite fireworks while keeping the volume moderate; her singing is entirely easy to imagine in a chamber environment. The three trio sonatas, two for two violins and continuo and one for recorder, violin, and continuo, are even better, with seductively shaped phrases in the slow movements, brisk tempi and a real sensation of excitement in the finales, and an unfailing liveliness throughout. The sound, recorded oddly enough at a Hannover nursing home, is superb. Cantata texts are in the original Italian, English, French, and German, with booklet notes in the latter three languages.

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