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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Music for princesses, 10 April 2014
By 
E. L. Wisty "World Domination League" (Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Handel: Duetti da Camera (Audio CD)
The count of chamber duets by Handel, all for soprano, alto & continuo, stands at twenty - these were works not published but which remained in manuscript copies only, composed not for public consumption but for performance by aristocratic cognoscenti, music for musicians rather than pandering to popular favour in the opera house. Five of the ten works here were composed in the time of Handel's second period in Hanover from 1710-12, and are part of a set of twelve or thirteen composed for Caroline Wilhelmina of Brandenburg-Ansbach, later Queen Caroline of England, wife of George II, who was apparently very fond of performing this type of composition. Of the others on this recording, two were composed at some point in the 1720s, and the final three in the 1740s. Most of these involved borrowing from other earlier works or being themselves subsequently borrowed.

Some commentators such as his biographer John Mainwaring regarded these pieces more highly even than Handel's major works, and it seems that they held the honour alongside a handful of his oratorios, organ pieces and church anthems, as part of the small proportion of his oeuvre remembered after his death until the modern day revival - as late as 1831 the London magazine Eclectic Review remarked that "Handel's vocal duets, though inferior, as to vocal melody, to the great Italian composers of his day, are superior in variety of style and boldness of effect".

Now I'm not sure that I would go that far myself, particularly in respect of variety of style, and consequently as a set I don't find them quite as enthralling as other vocal chamber works such as his cantatas composed during his Italian period of 1708-10, and which are also recorded by Fabio Bonizzoni on the Glossa label in a seven disc set, and this is probably the first time I have awarded less than five stars to one of his releases. Nevertheless the performance is of a high standard and there are two skilled Handel vocalists here, soprano Roberta Invernizzi who has been a perennial favourite of mine, and mezzo Marina de Liso, and the recording is of excellent quality, sharp and clear. It's a welcome addition to the Handel discography, and I think probably edges out the disc by Gillian Fisher and James Bowman, Handel: Italian Duets, whose programme is very close to this one, and certainly better than Handel Arcadian Duets which is a little bit of a mishmash.

The booklet notes are relatively brief compared to what you usually get with these Glossa issues, including a rather bizarre and utterly pointless short essay on "Handel and gender issues" touching on Handel's, ahem, "orientation". Sung texts and translations are given.
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Handel: Duetti da Camera
Handel: Duetti da Camera by Roberta Invernizzi (Audio CD - 2014)
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