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CLASSICAL  August 2007

CLASSICAL August 2007

Subject:

Handel's German Arias

From:

Donald Satz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 13 Aug 2007 21:28:48 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (113 lines)

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

Nine German Arias, HWV 202-210 (1724-27) [48:14]
Oboe Sonata in F major, HWV 363a (c. 1730) [8:02]
Oboe Sonata in B flat major, HWV 357 (c. 1730) [7:03]
Oboe Sonata in C minor, HWV 366 (c. 1730) [6:26]

Carolyn Sampson (soprano)
The King's Consort:
Alexandra Bellamy (oboe)
Stephanie-Marie Degand (violin)
Jonathan Cohen (cello)
Lynda Sayce (theorbo)
Robert King (harpsichord/chamber organ)
Recorded Menuhin Hall, Stoke d'Abernon, Surrey, 22-24 October 2006
Released July 2007
Hyperion CDA67627 [70:33]

German Arias Comparisons:
Dorothea Roschmann/Academy for Ancient Music Berlin - Harmonia Mundi (rec. 1998)
Ann Monoyios/Berlin Baroque Compagney - Capriccio (rec. 1995)

Ann Monoyios, Dorothea Roschmann and Carolyn Sampson have heavenly voices,
so you can't go wrong with acquiring any of these three excellent releases.
However, I do prefer Monoyios and would like to look at the poetic texts
from Handel's good friend Barthold Heinrich Brockes to explain my
preference.

Written by Brockes in 1721, the texts for Handel's German Arias are a
satisfying tribute to the premise that God's greatness is to be found
in nature.  The texts are not in the exuberant or demonstrative categories,
but present a very comforting picture of an intimate/loving God providing
us an abundance of nature's glory.  Enter Ann Monoyios with a youthful
and innocent voice that gives full measure to the notion of sublime
contentment.  Her tone is not particularly strong, but it is a lovely
voice that floats notes beautifully and with a rhythmic lift second to
none.

Switch to Dorothea Roschmann and the intensity of the music is highlighted,
abetted by slower tempos than on the Monoyios recording.  Roschmann's
voice is much more mature than Monoyios' with a depth of expression the
latter singer could only imagine.  Yet, I am not convinced that this
greater maturity and depth yields any net gains except perhaps in the
slowest and most reflective arias such as HWV 202.  Put another way, the
matching of voice, music and text doesn't always find the advantages to
reside with the superior vocalist.

With Carolyn Sampson's new version of the German Arias, we find a
performance that takes a middle ground between Roschmann and Monoyios.
Sampson's voice is more youthful than Roschmann's, not as innocent as
Monoyios'.  Sampson's depth of expression is admirable, and she can
fairly be considered a superb alternative to the other two vocalists.
As for sonics, both the Sampson and Roschmann recordings have an immediate
presence not found in the Monoyios release.  Yet, the Monoyios sonics
are very appealing and comfortable.

Sticking with Monoyios for the moment, her most impressive performance
is found in HWV 203 where her light and innocent tone perfectly matches
a text emphasizing how the world's oceans, rivers and streams refresh
the land.  Definitely a transcendent interpretation that far surpasses
what Roschmann and Sampson deliver.

A couple of reviews I have read of these recordings make the case that
the couplings could well be the determining factor in which version to
acquire.  I disagree and find the couplings "filler" material.  Further,
the differences in performing style among the three recordings of the
German Arias are easily substantial enough to stand on their own in the
acquisition decision-making process.

However, let's spend some time on the couplings where the new Hyperion
release is at a distinct disadvantage.  First, The couplings of three
oboe sonatas do not present the degree of variety found on the other
two releases; the Monoyios offers a sonata for flute and one for oboe
as well as an Allegro for Violin and Continuo, while the Roschmann gives
us two Telemann quartets, one featuring the oboe and the other the cello.
Second, Alexandra Bellamy's oboe tone on the Hyperion release is rather
abrasive/piercing and too far forward in the instrumental mix; these are
not endearing qualities that make the best case for the oboe's universal
appeal.

Don's Conclusions: As I mentioned earlier, each of the three recordings
is a winner and well worth your consideration.  My preference for Ann
Monoyios is likely highly subjective, and I certainly find many rewards
from the other two sopranos.  As it happens, each vocalist offers a
different style that is highly enjoyable, and I have no problem in
recommending purchase of all three discs.  There is a brand new release
of the German Arias on the Chandos label that features the veteran soprano
Julianne Baird; the disc's title is "Flaming Rose".  I have not heard
this new one but am confident that it will be competitive with the
Hyperion and other recordings.

Now I have to relate some information that saddens, even sickens me
to think of.  My champion of Handel's music on period instruments, the
conductor and keyboardist Robert King, will not be associated any longer
with Hyperion records for at least a few years.  Mr. King was recently
convicted of sexual abuse of minors and will serve almost 4 years in
prison.  King founded the King's Consort in 1980 and has made about 100
records for Hyperion.  For now, Hyperion intends to keep these recordings
in its inventory, but the decision could change in a flash if strong
pressure is applied by child advocacy and other groups.  The whole
situation is quite depressing in that a sensational musical talent has
been undone by a major psychological illness; even worse, innocent
children have been damaged in a way that they will probably never
fully recover from.  The world turns, but not always for the best.

Don Satz
[log in to unmask]

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