Myth #1 = Baroque orchestras tend to focus on technical excellence rather than musical expression.
Myth #2 = Baroque vocal music conveys less passion than its Romantic counterpart.
Myth #3 = A Lyric Tenor cannot successfully sing Baroque music.
My collection includes Rolando Villazón's two other critically acclaimed Baroque recordings - both ensemble pieces, namely Monteverdi's "Combattimento di Tancredi", and Vivaldi's "Ercole sul Termodonte". So I was eager to hear this solo Handel album by an artist whose endeavours, however surprising, are always undertaken with musical intelligence, commitment and integrity.
I was immediately struck by the sparkling artistry of the Gabrieli Players, under the expert baton of Paul McCreesh (Myth #1 busted). Their animation just radiates and it is evident that this is their heartland territory. Secondly, Rolando Villazón's superb interpretation of this music dispels forever the notion that singing Baroque means hiding one's emotions under a flood of ornamented vocal acrobatics! (Myth #2 busted). Just as with his Romantic repertoire, you can feel his heart in his voice - whether the aria in question is a torrential outpouring, or a quiet soliloquy. I also enjoyed hearing new facets in his voice - as if a familiar gemstone was catching and reflecting a fresh ray of light.
In Ariodante's "Scherza, Infida" for example, he conveys his heartbreak as touchingly as any Rodolfo or Alfredo - while remaining true to the style required for music of this genre. And Bajazet's death scene from "Tammerlano" is absolutely arresting in its impact! Then there is his beautifully introspective rendition of "Pastorello D'Un Povero Armento" from "Rodelinda" - where the king, with all his luxury, power and wealth, yearns for the peaceful and untroubled sleep of the shepherd boy. And the beloved "Ombra Mai Fu" from "Serse" is simply delicious!
In interview on the bonus DVD (supplied with the Deluxe edition), Rolando Villazón talks of being driven to achieve excellence under the guidance of Paul McCreesh, while Mr McCreesh speaks of Mr Villazón's finely tuned vocal instrument, lack of vanity and absolute commitment to the music. This is obviously a partnership strengthened by mutual respect - and the fine result is obvious in the finished product.
So - that leaves only Myth #3. Can a Lyric Tenor successfully sing Handel? Assuredly YES ... especially if he is Rolando Villazón!