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This is why one of Handel's most ideologically abstract pieces proves to be also among his most potently humane: though of course everything depends on the four soloists, who must master Handel's extravagant technical demands which alone make the protagonists' contrarious passions apprehensible. Fortunately, the team here assembled is equal to Handel's most perilous prestidigitations -- this being a tribute to the young composer's mind-boggling skill which, in achieving equilibrium between hazard and hope, defines our human condition.

Haendel: Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno (p) 2001 Opus 111

The two sopranos, Deborah York as Beauty and Gemma Bertagnolli as Pleasure, alarmingly fuse ferocity with fright, coming through with literally superb effrontery and in so doing enabling us to understand why Handel could find in this not intrinsically inspiring text a basic testament to High Baroque Heroism. The alto Sara Mingardo as Disillusion and the tenor Nicholas Sears as Time of their nature temper the two heroines' tipsy abandon with a measure of sobriety, whilst still singing with an intensity responsive to the emotional turmoil under which the girls labour. In supporting the 18th century virtues of Reason, Truth, and Nature, Tempo and Disinganno tell us that these values are not merely desirable but essential, given that our passions are so scarily unruly.

In this context the instrumental dimensions of the score are pertinent, since the human qualities that the two sopranos bring startlingly to life are enclosed within the formal world of the orchestra, consisting mostly of strings, intermittently boosted by oboes and bassoons, with a continuo of string bass and harpsichord or chamber organ. The conductor, Rinaldo Alessandrini, handles the band with fierily precise discipline, thereby revealing the elegantly patterned figurations and the clearly-disposed key relationships which are often threatened by the soloists' startlements but are always finally triumphant. Inner intricacies are not missed but forward momentum remains irresistible -- this being another tribute to the young composer's expertise. I'll comment on a few key moments as the 'arguments' unfold.

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Copyright © 28 July 2001 Wilfrid Mellers, York, UK







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