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Very different is the background to the second aria of Miah Persson as Almirena, who will, in defiance of Tasso, eventually marry Rinaldo. Here all is atwitter with prominent flageolet and flutes. The original production reinforced Handel's evocation of bird life with live examples, a novelty suitably mocked by Richard Steele: 'The Sparrows and Chaffinches at the Hay-Market fly as yet very irregularly over the Stage; and instead of perching on the Trees and performing their Parts, these young Actors either get into the Galleries or put out the Candles' [listen -- CD1 track 14, 0:00-1:20]. As well as displaying his finest musical wares in Rinaldo, Handel was determined to present himself as an outstanding keyboard virtuoso. There is a dazzling such display to introduce Armida's aria at the end of Act 2. It is difficult to imagine that Handel would have played any faster than Nicolau de Figueiredo [listen -- CD2 track 24, 0:00-1:08]. For those enamoured of such things, there is veritable harpsichord warfare between Figueiredo and Piers Maxim to bring down the curtain (music by Babell rather than Handel).

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Copyright © 18 June 2003 Robert Anderson, Egypt


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