Everyone and her sister have released Handel recital recordings in the last few years, but the ones we have reviewed have been by treble voices. This summer, English tenor Mark Padmore broke that pattern, with an exceptional disc of tenor arias and scenes, named for the only duet recorded here (quite beautifully, with soprano Lucy Crowe), As Steals the Morn from L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, ed il Moderato. Padmore has collaborated on several Ionarts favorite recordings, with William Christie, Philippe Herreweghe, John Eliot Gardiner, and René Jacobs. He has a voice distinguished by its sweetness and purity of tone, although sometimes lacking in resolution against strong orchestral textures. In this fine disc he is given an appropriately scaled instrumental envelope in the sensitive and warm playing from the English Concert, led by Andrew Manze. As a result, Padmore shines in the calm and placid moments but has convincing strength on the more virile pieces, like the Samson selections.
Available at Amazon:
As Steals the Morn, Mark Padmore, English Concert, Andrew Manze (released on June 12, 2007)
Other Handel Discs Reviewed at Ionarts:
Cecilia Bartoli | Sarah Connolly
Natalie Dessay | Renée Fleming
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson
Sandrine Piau | Andreas Scholl (1)
Angelika Kirchschlager | Vivica Genaux
Andreas Scholl (2)
For a luscious example of the former, listen to Waft Her, Angels, available for free online. This is one of the most drop-dead gorgeous and affecting pieces Handel ever wrote (also the last aria for tenor composed by Handel before his death), sung by the distraught general, Jephtha, as he realizes he must sacrifice his beloved daughter. Padmore should be the model for all singers as far as English pronunciation and diction go: every word is clear, and how often do we actually say "Waft her" or "yon azure plain" anymore? His Italian is a little on the inglayzay side, although the coaching of Emanuele Moris has helped considerably.
Manze leads the English Concert in fresh performances, even in the most familiar pieces, for example, taking layers of varnish off Where'er You Walk, from Semele. The pizzicato strings and echoing oboe are delightful in Tune Your Harps, from Esther. Padmore adds tasteful embellishments, never particularly flashy, on the da capo repeats. Other happy discoveries include the opening track, Enjoy the Sweet Elysian Grove, from Handel's last musical work for the stage, incidental music intended for a play by Tobias Smollet, Alceste (begun and abandoned in 1750).
Harmonia Mundi HMU 907422