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29.8.12

Briefly Noted: Lucy Crowe's Handel

available at Amazon
Il Caro Sassone: Handel in Italy, L. Crowe, The English Concert, H. Bicket

(released on November 8, 2011)
HMU 907559 | 74'33"
We have taken note of rising British soprano Lucy Crowe a couple times before, in her performance of the St. Matthew Passion at the Festival de Saint-Denis and at the Salzburg Festival. Although I have admired her contributions to ensemble recordings in the past, her recent Handel disc was the first solo outing that crossed my desk. It is a recording of consistent and often breath-taking beauty, with music that flatters Crowe's voice in almost every way. Hers is a soprano of clarity, in its minimal vibrato reminiscent in many ways of Emma Kirkby at the height of her powers, except that Crowe is not quite as colorless. In the final slow aria of Armida abbandonata and in Lascia la spina (adapted from Lascia ch'io pianga for Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno), for example, her voice hangs in the air like a laser, with no sense of agitation, just plangent incision. Some of the interpolated high notes in the more high-flying arias like Barbaro, tu non credi are thrilling, with everything in the middle and top of the voice clean and pure of intonation and effortless in sound. The only reservation vocally is some of the forays at the bottom of her range, where the tone becomes a little unstable. Harry Bicket, seated at the harpsichord, leads a generally fine accompaniment from the English Concert, with some lovely solos from violin leader Nadja Zwiener and oboist Katharine Spreckelsen in a couple of instrumental pieces. Some delightful discoveries include Handel's setting of the Salve Regina (HWV 241, performed for Marquis Ruspoli at the Chiesa San Sebastiano in Vignanello) and the enigmatic cantata Alpestre monte (HWV 81, possibly composed in Florence).

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