Saturday, 10 June 2017

Roberta Invernizzi, and Handel

Apart from Gustav Mahler, it is difficult to think of a composer whose stock has risen faster than that of Georg Frideric Handel. When I was young, when it came to Handel it was the Messiah, the Water Music, the Fireworks music, and some violinist – including me – playing “Handel's Largo”. My current catalogue of Handel recordings amounts to 585 works: duetti, cantatas, complete operas and oratorios, plus arias from individual operas and oratorios. Yes, five Messiahs, six recordings of the “Largo” (but no Fireworks, or Water Music). Inconceivable back in the 1950s and 60s.

The latest 13 Handel pieces (all from his operas) to join my collection are sung by Roberta Invernizzi (with the Accademia Hermans directed by Fabio Ciofini). Invernizzi has a lovely burnished soprano voice that I enjoy immensely. Her arias are well chosen; the band plays well and stylistically. The CD wins a privileged place in my rack of 15 CDs that I keep to hand. There is a lot to be said for singers who sing in their native languages; for a start, they can concentrate hard on the meaning of the words, rather than on how to pronounce them colloquially. But that is a subject for another essay. I also often prefer Italian bands in this kind of music, rather than their more prim and proper North European counterparts. Maybe Handel, with his evident preference for Italian singers and musicians (at that time) had good instincts. See Thomas Hearne and his condemnation in Oxford of Handel and his “Crew of (lousy foreign) fiddlers”. An early Brexit supporter !

Invernizzi's CD is built around the four famous sopranos for whom Handel wrote much of his operatic music. The fact that two of the sopranos achieved the popular nicknames of “the Elephant” and “the Pig” reminds us of the days when opera singers (as well as musicians in general) were prized above all for their performing ability, rather than for their physical appearance. Alas, nowadays if you are not young and beautiful, you are greeted with polite rejection by the marketing team. We await with horror the future appearance of a teenage Brunhilde, and a teenage Tristan.

An excellent addition to my 585 collection of Handel recordings. I confess to being a bit of a Handel junkie; but rather more Handel than yet another Kreutzer Sonata, or Mendelssohn violin concerto. Viva Invernizzi !

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