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Il Duello Amoroso

Today is the Palio here in Siena. Your prayers for my survival of it are appreciated.

Available at Amazon:
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A. Scholl, Il duello amoroso (Handel), Hélène Guilmette, Accademia Bizantina, Ottavio Dantone
(released April 10, 2007)

Other Handel Discs Reviewed at Ionarts:
Cecilia Bartoli | Sarah Connolly
Natalie Dessay | Renée Fleming
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson
Sandrine Piau | Andreas Scholl
Angelika Kirchschlager | Vivica Genaux
As a countertenor, Andreas Scholl owes a particular debt to the works of Handel, to which so much of the demand for his voice type may be credited. To explore that relationship, Scholl's last Handel CD combined opera arias composed for the renowned alto castrato Senesino. In this new release, he offers four cantatas, all reflecting the Arcadian tastes of his patrons in Italy from 1706 to 1710. Mostly examples of virtuosic writing for the castrato voice, these works are excellent vehicles for Scholl's vocal strengths. Scholl is strongest in the slow arias (such as "Camminando lei pian piano" and "In un folto bosco ombroso" in Vedendo amor, HWV 175), particularly when the instrumental sound of the Accademia Bizantina are sensitively scaled by director Ottavio Dantone to the scope of Scholl's voice. This recalls the intimate setting in which these pieces are conceived, a small group of wealthy cognoscenti in Roman palazzi. Most of these cantatas are for alto voice and basso continuo only (here various combinations of harpsichord, lute, and harp, tending toward delicate, music-box sounds), with some obbligato parts for flute or violin.

The best piece on this recording is the little-known Nel dolce tempo, HWV 135b, from Handel's stay in Naples for the wedding celebrations of the Duke of Alvito in 1708. The Duke is cast here as a shepherd who falls in love with a beautiful nymph and is loved by her, which is not always the case in pastoral poetry. The first of two arias in this cantata, "Pastorella, coi bei lumi," is a fatally charming triple-meter love song, with exquisite ornamentation. Scholl is less attractive as the shepherd Daliso in the title work, Amarilli vezzosa (also known as Il duello amoroso, HWV 82), where the generally larger ensemble sound occasionally causes his voice to sound slightly forced. The violins of the Accademia Bizantina (Stefano Montanari and Fiorenza de Donatis) shine, as does the sharp, clear voice of the Canadian soprano Hélène Guilmette as the lover, Amarilli (particularly "Piacer che non si dona"). A melancholy trio sonata (op. 2, no. 1, in B minor), uniting Marcello Gatti's sweet flauto traverso and violin in the archetypal Baroque combination, rounds out this pleasing recording.

Harmonia Mundi HMC 901957

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