2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
I first checked the prices on amazon USA, GB, and Deutschland, and they were all exorbitant. I don't usually buy MP3 dowloads. However, the sound quality of this recording is better than average, the music is superb, and the performance is blinking Awesome!
However, I do miss the notes and I know rather little about these duets beyond what my ears tell me. I know that, though the language is Italian, none of them was composed in Italia. The earliest of them was written during Handel's brief stay in Hanover circa 1711; the others were composed in London as late as the 1740s. The Hanover connection confirms what my ears already know, that these duets were powerfully influenced by the famous duets of Agostino Steffani. In fact, if you shuffled ten duets by Steffani and these ten by Handel, even specialists might have trouble separating them. Neither Handel's nor Steffani's duets are recycled arias from operas; in fact Handel reused at least one of these duets in a later opera. All of them, from both composers, have the musical "weight" of small cantatas. Steffani's duets are structured by the usual recitativo/arietta/aria formulae of baroque vocal music; Handel's duets are entirely arietta/aria in manner. Both composers utilized their mastery of counterpoint, especially of fugue, to enrich these graceful gallantries for "voices in love with each other."
Two voices in love with each other? Rossana Bertini and Claudio Cavina fit that description like matched wedding bands. Male alto Cavina sounds resolutely Male in timbre even in his highest passages, while soprano Bertina is deliciously Female both in timbre and in affect. Their ensemble in the nec plus ultra of "historically informed" baroque vocal technique: flawless tuning, agility, tasteful and elegant embellishment. The continuo harpsichord and lute of La Venexiana is polished.
If you can't tolerate MP3 or afford the scalpers' prices, you can hear the Italian Duets on at least two other recordings:
One terrible: Handel: Italian Duets
One excellent: Italian Duets