Dame Kiri Janette Te Kanawa ONZ DBE AC (born 6 March 1944) is a New Zealand/Māori soprano who has had a highly successful international opera career since 1968. Acclaimed as one of the most beloved sopranos in both the United States and Britain she possesses a warm full lyric soprano voice, singing a wide array of works in multiple languages from the 17th to the 20th centuries. She is particularly associated with the works of Mozart, Strauss, Verdi, Handel and Puccini…
While purists might claim that the jazz pianist Keith Jarrett’s disc of Handel’s keyboard suites is an example of the wrong performer on the wrong instrument, his straightforward conception and contrapuntal clarity underscore the solid foundation on which Handel’s most flamboyant fantasies were built. This one of Keith's finest classical performances, and essential listening for baroque enthusiasts.
“[These suites] have rarely been recorded or promoted by harpsichordists during the most recent revival of interest in ‘early music.’” I realize that Richard Egarr is entitled to his own opinions—his liner notes on an earlier release, for example, likened the humor in Purcell’s harpsichord music to that of the wonderful old 1950s BBC comedy The Goon Show —but he’s not entitled to his own facts. Christopher Brodersen pointed out in a 2011 review of these works featuring Laurence Cummings ( Fanfare 34:5) that ArkivMusic listed nine complete sets played on the harpsichord, with several others on the piano. I find some of the suites have considerably more recordings than that, in 2014: 26 for the Suite in A Major, 28 for the Suite in D Minor, 25 for the Suite in E Minor, 47 for the Suite in E Major. If such numbers reflect rare recordings, I have to wonder what Egarr would consider a moderate number, let alone a frequent one.
Here is a side of Handel unfamiliar even to those knowledgeable about his music. Most of this CD is devoted to miscellaneous songs in English‚ many of them published in his time on song sheets‚ or in journals‚ or given to friends‚ or intended for use in the theatre. They are‚ generally‚ in a more popular vein than his familiar music‚ and often in the style used by such composers as Arne or Boyce‚ or lesser men‚ in their English songs. The best of them‚ to my taste‚ are the theatre songs: ‘I like the amorous youth’ is a specially charming piece‚ and ‘Love’s but the frailty of the mind’‚ a Congreve setting made for the admired actresssinger Kitty Clive‚ is an exquisite and touching little song‚ especially when sung as beautifully as it is here by Emma Kirkby.
Classical music is one of the greatest joys in life. Opera on the other hand, is often too melodramatic to stomach. But there is nothing more enchanting than an Aria. On this 2 CD set, Emma Kirkby sings in sweet exultation. Her voice expresses power and agility yet a limpid tranquility. Clarity is the greatest achievement of any musician. With the aid of precision accompaniment on period instruments, shameless perfection is delivered. She soothes the soul longing for beauty. Her marvelous Soprano is rendered on 25 tracks in this eclectic ensemble. If you are a champion of Handel or a devotee of Mozart, you should not hesitate to purchase this CD. Emma Kirkby will have you beaming with delight and pining for more. Surely it will be one of the brightest of your collection.
From bar one, I felt an assurance and naturalness about the rhythms, a clarity and tonal richness in the orchestral and vocal texture, a stylishness of phrasing and embellishment, and a sheer zest and power of dramatic presentation that add up to a totally convincing and gripping whole. […] Neumann and his team have excelled themselves, and so has Handel, and anyone who thinks 18th-century music wanting in musico-dramatic force is urged to acquire this magnificent set without delay.
…Against the competition, this new German recording rates very high. It is certainly superior to Harnoncourt's heavily cut and somewhat mannered Teldec reissue.
The magnificent Christopher Purves performs a recital of Handel’s bass arias. This unique collection demonstrates the range and brilliance of Handel’s writing for this voice, featuring a selection from Italian and English operas, English classical drama, Biblical oratorios, literary odes and a masque. Handel’s endlessly imaginative gift for characterization is fully explored here, with Purves commanding an extraordinary emotional and technical range from the buffo blustering of Polyphemus in Acis and Gatalea to the loving musings of Abinoam in ‘Tears, such as tender fathers shed’ from the oratorio Deborah.
Handel’s two sets of concerti grossi have been mainstays of the Baroque orchestral repertoire for many years and therefore have been embraced by ensembles around the world. They are among the few remaining examples of concertos composed early in his career. The dozen concertos of Handel’s op. 6 have eclipsed the half-dozen of op. 3 in popularity. The purpose of the set was twofold: to serve as interval music in his operas and oratorios, and—via their publication—to ensure dissemination to the various concerto societies and venues of London. Handel solicits comparison to the Corellian model by titling the set Twelve Grand Concertos and by making use of a concertino of two violins, cello, and continuo, a combination that was extremely popular at the time.
Handel’s cantatas can be divided into two groups, those accompanied by continuo and those that add one or more obbligato instruments or a full orchestra. On disc 1, Jochen Kowalski sings five cantatas, one orchestral and four continuo. Kowalski has an attractive countertenor voice, not hooty or hollow sounding. He is adept at coloratura, and his voice is strong throughout its range, aside from a couple of high notes. He does not display much emotional range, but the cantatas he chose are not particularly dramatic and thus do not require it. Tasteful ornaments are added to da capos. The accompaniments are good. The orchestral cantata, Splende l’alba in oriente, is only available in one other currently available performance, by Gerard Lèsne on Virgin, a recording I have not heard.