This is a very well-performed and enjoyable programme of some of the Baroque's best-known and loveliest vocal works of Handel, Bach, Monteverdi, Pergolesi, Purcell and Dowland.
Danielle de Niese is a very fine singer with impeccable technique and intonation and she gives excellent performances throughout. Her style is quite Romantic in feel, with quite a bit of vibrato and an emphasis on expressive singing which makes an interesting contrast with great recordings of the recent past by Emma Kirkby, for example. I particularly like the opening of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater which she sings in duet with the great Andreas Scholl and where her overt emotional intensity works especially well. I hope they might record the whole work together at some point - on this evidence it would be something really special.
The English Concert, as one would expect, are terrific. They are completely at home in this repertoire and their playing is supple and responsive. They are excellent as an ensemble and there is some wonderful solo work - the trumpet playing in Let the Bright Seraphim and the oboe in Sich üben im lieben are quite outstanding, I thought.
Danielle de Niese is famously beautiful and Decca make full use of this, so that the cover is ambiguous about whether "The Beauty of the Baroque" is intended to refer to the music or to Ms de Niese herself. I suspect that this, combined with an air of "The Baroque's Greatest Hits" about the disc, may make some crusty old veterans of classical music like me a little dubious about whether the disc itself has real musical merit, but it genuinely does. I think it's a disc that will give real pleasure to an awful lot of people. Recommended.