Emma Kirkby / London Baroque

Händel in Italy

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Händel in Italy Review

by James Manheim

Even fans of English soprano Emma Kirkby may be surprised to find her tackling the muscular Italian-language music of the young Handel, which is mostly the province of big operatic voices. This recording offers four of the hundred or more Italian cantatas Handel wrote -- almost mini-operas with a single character who pours out her heart about, more often than not, love gone bad in a series of recitatives, accompanied recitatives, and arias. There is a Concerto a quattro in D major as an intermezzo, with polyphonic textures that offer a nice contrast to all the chordal accompaniments. Only the final cantata, Agrippina condotta a morire, HWV 110 (Agrippina Led to Her Death), has been much sung, and in the fiery, expansive parts of this work (try "Orrida, oscura," track 16), depicting the growing realization of Agrippina the Younger that her son, Nero, is going to do her in (bear in mind while listening that she herself may well have poisoned Claudius), listeners may wish for more power. The more intimate cantatas on the first part of the program fare very well, however. Kirkby's delicate ornaments in the arias of Notte placida e cheta, HWV 142 (Placid and Calm Night, composed in 1707), draw the listener into this subtle little pastoral lament, which isn't much heard even among confirmed Handelians. The historical-instrument London Baroque provides perfectly controlled, low-key support throughout. The bottom line is that Kirkby's many fans will appreciate this new demonstration of her talents, and even lovers of the Baroque aria may find hers a valuable alternative perspective. Booklet notes are in English, French, and German, but only the anglophones get translations of the Italian cantata texts.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Notte placida e cheta, cantata, HWV 142
1 London Baroque / Emma Kirkby 06:24 Amazon
2 London Baroque / Emma Kirkby 02:30 Amazon
3 London Baroque / Emma Kirkby 03:38 Amazon
4 London Baroque / Emma Kirkby 02:41 Amazon
Un' alma innamorata, cantata, HWV 173
5 London Baroque / Emma Kirkby 06:37 Amazon
6 London Baroque / Emma Kirkby 05:13 Amazon
7 London Baroque / Emma Kirkby 01:47 Amazon
Concerto a quattro, for recorder, violin, bassoon & continuo in D minor (doubtful)
8 London Baroque / Emma Kirkby 01:40 Amazon
9 London Baroque / Emma Kirkby 01:27 Amazon
10 London Baroque / Emma Kirkby 01:34 Amazon
11 London Baroque / Emma Kirkby 01:05 Amazon
Figlio d'alte speranze, cantata for soprano, HWV 113
12 London Baroque / Emma Kirkby 04:40 Amazon
13 London Baroque / Emma Kirkby 02:39 Amazon
14 London Baroque / Emma Kirkby 02:47 Amazon
Agrippina condotta a morire (Dunque sarà pur vero), cantata for soprano, 2 violins & continuo, HWV 110
15 London Baroque / Emma Kirkby 00:54 Amazon
16 London Baroque / Emma Kirkby 03:02 Amazon
17 London Baroque / Emma Kirkby 00:48 Amazon
18 London Baroque / Emma Kirkby 02:26 Amazon
19 London Baroque / Emma Kirkby 01:00 Amazon
20 London Baroque / Emma Kirkby 05:28 Amazon
21 London Baroque / Emma Kirkby 05:03 Amazon
22 London Baroque / Emma Kirkby 00:56 Amazon
23 London Baroque / Emma Kirkby 01:57 Amazon
24 London Baroque / Emma Kirkby 00:54 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick