In War and Peace Joyce DiDonato (mezzo)
Il Pomo d’Oro/Maxim Emelyanychev
* world première recording
rec. 13/20 March 2016 Gustav Mahler Hall, Kulturzentrum, Grand Hotel
Toblach, Italy ERATO 9029592846
Reviewed as streamed from
Qobuz. The advertised booklet was not available.
If you thought that Joyce DiDonato had moved on from the baroque, this new
Erato album and Bel Air Classique’s release of Handel’s Hercules
(BAC513, blu-ray or BAC213 DVD) on which she features with Les Arts
Florissants and William Christie should change your mind. Though I ought
to have some reservations they were all blown away by the sheer range of
music and performance on offer here, with some repertoire from the soprano
and some from the alto stable.
I imagine that most listeners will be most impressed by the more dramatic
moments such as the aria from Leo’s Andromaca (track 2) which also
has the virtue of being its first ever recording, one of three such
premières in the programme.
The highlight of the recital for me is Lascia ch’io pianga
from Almirena –
available on YouTube. Not
since Janet Baker in Orlando at Sadler’s Wells 50 years ago have I
heard Handel’s music of lamentation sung with such moving affection.
Surprisingly DiDonato omitted Orlando’s Mad Scene from her first recital
where it would have been appropriate (Furore, Erato, formerly Virgin, 5190832 –
There are many very fine performances of Lascia ch’io pianga, not
least from Magdalena Kožená with the Venice Baroque Orchestra and Andrea
Marcon (DG Archiv 4776547: Recording of the Month –
review) and Patricia Petitbon with the same orchestra and conductor (DG 4778763:
Recording of the Month –
review). Those are both first-rate – it was I who made the Petitbon Recording of
the Month – but DiDonato gets inside the music more than any other.
Similarly, though I greatly admire Sarah Connolly’s Dido (Chandos CHAN0757
Recording of the Month
– or Opus Arte blu-ray OABD7049D/DVD OA1018D –
review) DiDonato is at least her equal in Dido’s Lament (track 6).
The down side, if such it is, is the tendency occasionally to push the
music a little further than it should go. Both my colleagues in reviewing
her Handel recording in 2008 noted what Jonathan Woolf called ‘the
quivering intensity and occasionally excessive character’ of the singing
and the same is true of this new album. The quivering intensity is
sometimes accompanied by too wide a vibrato but, like my colleagues in
2008, I cannot wish the fault – if fault it be – undone, the issue being so
proper, especially as the softer moments are also noteworthy. In that
respect the new recital is more varied than her Drama Queens
recording, released in 2012 (Erato 6026542).
It almost goes without saying that the accompaniment is first-rate. The
recording is very good but I cannot comment on the booklet: the streamed
version from Qobuz promises it but trying to access it leads nowhere. The
Qobuz and all the CD quality downloads that I checked represented no saving
on the CD, currently on sale for around £10.
Minor – very minor – reservations apart, I very much enjoyed this
stunningly good recording.
George Friderick HANDEL (1685-1759) Jephtha
: Scenes of Horror, scenes of woe (Storgè) [5:13]
Leonardo LEO (1694-1744) Andromaca: Prendi quel ferro, o barbaro!
George Friderick HANDEL Giulio Cesare: Vani sono i lamenti…Svegliatevi nel core
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)The Indian Queen: They tell us that you mighty powers above (Orazia) [4:05]
George Friderick HANDEL Agrippina: Pensieri, voi mi tormentate
Henry PURCELLDido and Aeneas
: Dido’s Lament: Thy hand, Belinda…When I am laid in earth (Dido) [5:03]
George Friderick HANDEL Rinaldo: Lascia ch’io pianga
or The British Heroine (Z574): Oh! Lead me to some peaceful gloom
George Friderick HANDEL Rinaldo: Augelletti che cantate
Niccolò JOMMELLI (1714-1774)Attilio Regolo: Sprezza il furor del vento
Henry PURCELLThe Indian Queen
: Why should men quarrel? (A girl) [1:31]
Niccolò JOMMELLIAttilio Regolo: Par che di Giubilo
(Attilio Regolo)* [6:09]
George Friderick HANDEL Susanna
: Lead me, oh lead me to some cool retreat…Crystal streams in murmurs
flowing (Susanna) [8:21]
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643)Il ritorno di Ulisse in patria: Illustratevi, o cieli
George Friderick HANDEL Giulio Cesare: Da tempeste il legno infranto