Handel – Nine German Arias

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Handel
Neun deutsche Arien
Oboe Sonatas: in B flat, HWV357; in F, HWV363a; in C minor, HWV366

Carolyn Sampson (soprano)

The King’s Consort:
Alexandra Bellamy (oboe)
Stéphanie-Marie Degand (violin)
Jonathan Cohen (cello)
Lynda Sayce (theorbo)
Robert King (harpsichord & chamber organ)

Recorded 22-24 October 2006 in The Menuhin Hall, Stoke d’Abernon, Surrey


Reviewed by: John T. Hughes

Reviewed: June 2007
CD No: HYPERION CDA67627
Duration: 71 minutes

It must be about 50 years ago that I bought my first recording of Handel’s Nine German Arias. It was a DG Archiv LP by Margot Guilleaume, on which the instrumentalists included a flautist and an oboe-player: neither instrument features alongside Carolyn Sampson on this Hyperion CD. We hear only violin, cello, theorbo, harpsichord and organ, but what a pleasing sound they make.

Handel’s German arias, all in da capo form except ‘In den angenehmen Büschen’, the shortest of the nine, include the slow and measured and the brisk and joyful, examples being the beautiful ‘Künft’ ger Zeiten eitler Kummer’ in the former category and the uplifting ‘Meine Seele hört im Sehen’ in the latter.

Carolyn Sampson brings some nice touches to the set, being able to encompass long phrases smoothly and to sing the more adorned passages without smudging. Whereas the upper notes in her voice have a silvery quality, she produces a warm, glowing timbre in mid-voice in slow arias like ‘Süsse Stille, sanfte Quelle’. In that second respect, I like her singing of the aforementioned ‘Künft’ ger Zeiten’ very much. These nine arias, by the way, are not the big, bravura ones that Handel wrote for his Italian operas but settings of poems by Barthold Heinrich Brockes in which God is seen through nature: personal affairs.

Reservations have been expressed in some quarters regarding Sampson’s lack of characterisation, and I can understand that someone should find her approach rather generalised. There is not a great deal of variety in the way she responds, particularly if one plays all nine arias in one session. If that is no hindrance, one may succumb to Sampson’s vocalisation.

The arias are interspersed by instrumental pieces: three oboe sonatas. I wonder what the date of Alexandra Bellamy’s rich oboe is: it has a fruity tang to its tone, giving a poignantly aching sound in slow movements yet skipping nonchalantly through such measures as the Allegro of the C minor sonata, all guided by Bellamy’s artistry.

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