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This is a recording made during performances given in association with BBC Radio 3 at Sadler's Wells in 2001. Audience applause (entirely appropriately) has not been edited out, but there are two occasions of laughter which are inscrutable without being able to see the business which provoked them. Apart from that, you couldn't want for a better recording, so sensitively picked up and (presumably) engineered is the theatre ambience.

Pinnock conducts the sparkling playing with shrewdness, but without affectation or any self-consciously massaged period authenticity. Handel's relatively small palette of colour -- strings, recorders, flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoon and continuo -- and his inexhaustible melodic fertility are allowed to speak here for themselves through beautifully translucent textures [listen -- CD2 track 10, 0:00-0:36]. Baroque conventions -- both of composition and of performance -- are evident throughout but this is music which transcends style and period.

The greatest glory of this recording, however -- and the competition with John Eliot Gardiner's earlier Erato recording is stiff -- is the commitment by so many of the singers to the music as theatre. Handel's score is certainly underscored with psychological tensions but, whereas the drama is explicit, the undertow of emotions could so easily have been polished away. Not so here. Tom Randle as Bajazet is absolutely convincing as a man torn between the sirens of pride -- bruised as it is by Tamerlano's military defeat of him -- and self-preservation [listen -- CD1 track 15, 0:00-1:21]. His anger, his petulance, his love (and disgust) for his daughter, the object of Tamerlano's tyrannical lust, and finally his proud, agonised self-immolation are brilliantly projected -- alternately pathetic, sympathetic and superb [listen -- CD3 track 20, 0:00-0:49].

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Copyright © 29 September 2002 Peter Dale, Danbury, Essex, UK


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