Emma Bell – Handel Arias

0 of 5 stars

Amadigi – Desterò dall empia dite
Ariodante – Orrida a gl’occhi miei
Deidamia – M’hai rea infelice
Giulio Cesare – Piangerò la sorte mia
Lotario – Scherza in mar
Radamisto – Sommi dei; Barbaro, partirò
Rinaldo – Ah, crudel
Rodelinda – Ombre pianti; Se’l mio duol
Scipione – Tutta raccolta ancor

Emma Bell (soprano)

Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Richard Egarr (harpsichord)

Recorded between 8-10 September 2004 in the Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Reviewed by: John T. Hughes

Reviewed: October 2005
[CD/SACD Hybrid]
Duration: 51 minutes

The fact that the programme runs for only 51 minutes is just about this disc’s only black mark, apart from someone’s inability to spell Giulio correctly in the track-listing. Why, though, as Handel wrote so many soprano arias, is the purchaser offered such short measure?

Creditably, the recital includes a number of less well-known arias from Handel’s operas, with a wide range of emotions and tempos, from the sombre “Sommi dei”, once recorded by Kirsten Flagstad, and two laments from “Rodelinda” to Melissa’s summoning the Furies, with trumpet obbligato, in “Desterò dall empia dite”, which launches the CD with vigour. (We should have been given the name of the accomplished trumpeter.)

Emma Bell’s tone has a bite to it, which may not please those who think that Handel’s singers had miminy-piminy voices. She puts it to good use in the more exuberant arias, through which her technique enables her to sail with vocal dexterity, the “Amadigi” aria being one such, and she trips airily through the short “Ariodante” piece. She can also poise a note with accuracy and elegance, as shown on the opening note of “Ombre piante” and of “M’hai resa infelice” respectively, when she withdraws the vibrato to produce moments of delicious purity. How luscious is the middle of the voice in “Tutta raccolta ancor”, a simple little gem.

Does her vibrato contribute to an insignificant spreading of her tone on one or two loud notes? I thought so in passing, but it was only a thought. Certainly, Bell’s varying of the weight which she employs in contrasting arias and, indeed, phrases adds to the interest of her performances. Perhaps a little more decoration of the da capo section of some of the slow arias would have contributed even more: she introduces some for the final section of the “Amadigi” excerpt.

Emma Bell has built a good reputation as a Handel singer, and this disc gives a worthy impression of her qualities. She is well accompanied by Richard Egarr and the orchestra, whose players respond successfully when they have solo passages, such as the bassoon in “Ah, crudel”. The warm recording presents voice and instruments clearly (eschew headphones, for too much resonance is heard through them). The booklet contains texts, together with informative notes by Rodney Blumer. I should still have liked a longer programme, both for Miss Bell and for Mr Handel, but this is a pleasing addition to the discography of both of them.

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