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Monday, 16 June 2014

Handel - Duetti da Camera

Handel - Duetti da Camera: La Risonanza
Handel Duetti da Camera: Roberta Invernizzi, Marina de Liso, La Risonanza, Fabio Bonizzoni: Glossa
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jun 03 2014
Star rating: 5.0

Sparking accounts of ten of Handel's neglected chamber duets

Handel wrote Duetti da Camera throughout his life, his first set dates from 1710/12 when he was in Hanover and his last from the around 1744 when he was in London and has stopped composing Italian operas. They are all written for soprano, alto and continuo and, unlike the cantatas, there are no recitatives and there is little sign of them being sketches for operatic scenes. Instead the two voices sing in balance and the works were sometimes created for aristocratic pupils to perform rather than professionals (though the later London ones were probably written for professionals). The duets contain some delightful music, but have not been well represented on disc. This new disc on Glossa gives us 10 of them, performed by soprano Roberta Invernizzi, mezzo-soprano Marina de Liso and La Risonanza directed by Fabio Bonizzoni.

They open with Sono lieto, fortunate from Handel's Hanoverian period, one of a group with texts by Ortensio Mauro; according to Handel's early biographer Mainwaring Handel 'made twelve chamber Duettos for the practice of the late Queen, then electoral Princess'.


The duet shows off Marina de Liso's dark mezzo-soprano and Roberta Invernizzi's vibrant soprano with the two voices intertwining both dramatic and vibrantly vigorous. At times Invernizzi is beautifully plangent. The accompaniment, just cello, harpsichord and theorbo is very rich in theorbo sounds. The writing in Troppo curda, troppo fiera (Hanover, 1710-12) is canonic, with a lovely sinuous and fascinating melody. Da Liso is particularly impressive here in the faster sections, whilst the slower second section's chromatic melody is vividly projected by both artists.

Beato in ver chi puo (London, 1742) sets a free Italian version of Horace. The duet is striking and rather stirring. Invernizzi makes full use of the long solo opportunity Handel gives the soprano before the entry of the mezzo-soprano.  Much of the writing here, and elsewhere, is canonic and all the duets have little sense of dialogue between the voices, instead we have two voices moving together and intertwining. Tanti strali al sen mi scocchi  (Hanover, 1710-12) starts nicely perky, with another long soprano solo complete with some fabulous passagework. When the duet relaxes somewhat in the second section, Handel still gives both soloists some fine passagework as well as some lovely suspensions. The second section is not a little seductive, but again with plenty of vibrant passagework.

Langue, geme, sospira (London, 1720's) gives De Liso a solo moment with an expressively dramatic solo. The two singers give full vent varying emotions, sometimes robust, sometimes intimate. Always, throughout all these performances I was aware of how strongly both singers project the text, if you follow Italian you hardly need the printed word at all. Both Invernizzi and De Liso give the lie to the idea that you cannot combine clear text with strong bel canto technique. Conservate, raddopiate ((Hanover, 1710-12) sees De Liso opening the duet and this one does in fact develop a sense of dialogue.

Se tu non  lasci amore (London, 1720's) is all about being abandoned in love which makes its rather perky tune rather surprising. It receives a lovely vivid performance, again with lots of text. A mirarvi io son intento (Hanover, 1710-12) sees a lovely interplay between the two voices, with the singers even swapping words. Invernizzi and De Liso interact beautifully, playing off each other.

In No, di voi no vuo' fidarmi (London, 1742) it is clear that Handel's concept of the duet form has changed a little and the way he writes for the voices perhaps reflects his using professional singers in the duets at this period. The sense of interaction between the two vocal lines creates a very interesting sense of dialogue. Fronda leggiera e mobile (London, 1744) makes a fine conclusion to the disc with its rather bravura opening section, both De Liso and Invernizzi duetting virtuoso aplomb and a nicely perky feel to the tempo. When things relax, they are give a nicely shapely performance.

The disc has a fine article giving the background to the duets as well as full texts and translations. One curiosity is the appendix  Handel and Gender Issues, Early Impressions in which Carlo Vitali wanders from Mainwaring's interesting point about Handel's musical personality (as prevailingly male, rather than female) towards finger wagging about speculation over Handel's sexuality. There is certainly more to the issue than Vitali's casual dismissal of 'post modern radical theories' but a CD booklet hardly seems the place for discussion!

The current Handel catalogue lists over 20 chamber duets (HWV178 to HWV200), so it would be lovely to eventually hear them all together on disc, perhaps we might hope for a follow up disc!

This is a lovely disc, with captivating performances from Roberta Invernizzi and Marina de Liso, imaginatively and sensitively accompanied by Fabio Bonizzoni and La Risonanza.

George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759) - Sono liete, fortunate HWV 194 [4.07]
George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759) - Troppo cruda, troppo fiera HWV 198 [7.18]
George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759) - Beato in ver chi puo HWV 181 [7.06]
George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759) - Tanti strali al sen mi schocchi HWV 197 [7.52]
George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759) - Langue, geme, sospira HWV 188 [5.09]
George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759) - Conservate, raddiopiate HWV 185 [3.46]
George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759) - Se tu non lasci amore HWV 193 [6.36]
George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759) - A mirarvi io son intento HWV 178 [8.49]
George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759) - No, di voi no vuo'fidarmi HWV 190 [6.41]
George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759) - Fronda leggier e mobile HWV 186 [7.04]
Roberta Invernizzi (soprano)
Marina de Liso (mezzo-soprano)
La Risonanza (Caterina Dell'Agnello- violincello, Craig Marchitelli - archlute & theorbo, Fabio Bonizzoni - harpsichord)
Recorded  in Milan (Auditorium Gruppo 24 Ore) on 3-6 November 2013
GLOSSA  GCD 921516

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