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Briefly Noted: Streams of Pleasure

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Streams of Pleasure, K. Gauvin, M.-N. Lemieux, Il Complesso Barocco, A. Curtis

(released on September 27, 2011)
Naïve V 5261 | 1h15
Not long after the Handel aria discs were flooding the market, recitals of Handel duets began to appear: Rosemary Joshua and Sarah Connolly, with Harry Bicket and the English Concert (Chandos, 2010); Sandrine Piau and Sara Mingardo, with Rinaldo Alessandrini and Concerto Italiano (Naïve, 2009); Carolyn Sampson and Robin Blaze, with Nicholas Kraemer and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (BIS, 2006); Natalie Dessay and Véronique Gens (and friends), with Emmanuelle Haïm and Le Concert d'Astrée (Virgin, 2002). Alan Curtis, after a lovely selection of duets from Handel's operas, with Patrizia Ciofi and Joyce DiDonato (Virgin, 2004), has released a follow-up recording, this time of arias and duets from the English-language oratorios, dating from 1744 to 1750 (including the rarely heard Joseph and His Brethren and Alexander Balus). The results are equally hard to resist, especially with singing by two Ionarts favorites, contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux and soprano Karina Gauvin. Curtis's instincts in Handel, as usual, are spot-on, neither underplaying nor overselling the music's emotional punch. Minor pronunciation tics that mark the singers as non-native English speakers (the word "the" is a dead giveaway), but one can listen without the booklet texts and understand every word. Lemieux sings with forthright and broad tone, the chest voice burnished and full, and Gauvin is as shimmering and sparkling as ever. All the duets are carefully balanced between the two voices. Solo highlights include Lemieux's seraphic "As with rosy steps the morn" (Theodora) and Gauvin's heart-rending "Can I see my infant gor'd?" (Solomon).

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