The Handel Album
Philippe Jaroussky, countertenor
Countertenor Philippe Jaroussky recorded several albums and complete operas (as Faramondo, Partenope and Agrippina) composed by Georg Friedrich Handel. Now, time has come for him and the ensemble Artaserse to dedicate an album to Handel’s less known operas.
The Handel Album: the Programme
All the operas date to Handel’s London years, which means, to the most prolific period of his career. Some of these works, composed between 1715 (Amadigi di Gaula) and 1738 (Serse) were successful, some others sank into oblivion. Among the most unusual titles, there are Riccardo primo, re d’Inghilterra (1727), Flavio, re de’ Longobardi (1723), Giustino and Ezio. Even though all of them have been recorded at least once (there are no world premiere recordings in The Handel Album), they are rarities, especially next to more popular works as Serse and Radamisto.
As you know, Handel wrote each role thinking of the voice of this or that singer and virtuoso. Anyway, rather than being in the shoes of the singers of the past, Jaroussky makes an interesting observation about the fact that «when Handel revived an opera with a different cast […] he has no hesitation in transposing entire roles to adapt them to his new singers». It is for this reason that he «therefore decided to do the same with some of the arias on this album».
This choice is decisive, as it contributes with many other features to the success of this Handel Album.
The Handel Album: the Performance
Philippe Jaroussky is one of the leading singers of our time and every time I listen to him (not only in recent recordings as La storia di Orfeo, but also in one of his earliest ones, Bassani’s La morte delusa) his exquisite taste and musicianship always surprise me.
Despite The Handel Album includes some fast arias as Rompo i lacci from Flavio and Vile, se mi dai vita from Radamisto, Jaroussky sings with unfailing placidity. This mood, together with the luminous timbre of his voice, gives to this recording a light and enchanting colour.
This feature makes it rather different from other Baroque albums. It makes possible to discover the side of Handel’s music which not pyrotechnical and plenty of feelings. This happens in Se potessero i sospir’ miei from Imeneo, which is notable for its sweetness and for the way in which Jaroussky accents the keyword “sospir”. Another remarkable arias is Deggio morire, o stelle from Siroe, for the sincere sorrow that Jaroussky expresses, or Ombra cara from Radamisto for its heartfelt pain.
Virtuosity is not avoided, anyway. Some of the best arias are Agitato da fiere tempeste from Riccardo Primo and especially Sì, la voglio from Serse. In the latter in particular, Jaroussky’s agility and technical command allows him to sing this aria to perfection.
The Handel Album is really an enthralling recording. Jaroussky presents Handel’s music to the listener with smoothness and elegance. Its purity and beauty are really overwhelming. In my opinion, this is one of the best recordings I have ever heard.