Unlike Bach's splendid cantatas which were composed primarily as a public celebration of the Lutheran liturgical year, and are usually focused upon a specific feast day, these are privately composed chamber cantatas commissioned by aristocratic patrons for their personal enjoyment. Handel composed about 100 cantatas when he was in Italy between 1706 and 1710, a third of which have instrumental accompaniment. This first volume of a superb new series devoted to those instrumentally enhanced cantatas is an example of the only music Handel composed directly for patrons in whose houses he resided. They combine freshness of ideas from the 21-25 year old composer with the seriousness of purpose that facing your patron each morning can impose. The cantatas are unusually beautiful with brilliant vocal writing coupled with instrumental composition of great delicacy and taste, music of a private nature written for aristocratic connoisseurs that remained unpublished. They are largely unknown works whose present recordings are like having a mysterious cache of music suddenly exposed to daylight after three centuries of darkness. The importance of this new series of recordings for the Italian Glossa label cannot be over estimated.
The period instrumental group La Risonanza play this music with both an exquisite charm and an opulent sonority, as required. Handel was a young genius, apparently overflowing with ideas, for these chamber cantatas have an inexhaustible forward thrust, a momentum of beauty that can catch the breath, as phrase after lovely phrase rivets our attention right until the conclusion of each piece. The four cantatas on this disk are representative of the genre and make an excellent introduction. They are beautifully sung by soprano Roberta Invernizzi, whose voice is my idea of what Botticelli's Venus should have sounded like. It is appropriate that Handel was first hired by the Medicis and that Florence was his earliest Italian destination. The beauty on this disc has a Renaissance universality about it. If you have never heard this early example of Handel's genius but thought you knew his music, you owe yourself the pleasure of discovering the wellspring of the melodic mastery that eventually produced Messiah. This is a beautiful cd, first in what promises to be an indispensible series. Strongly recommended.
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