Handel: Arias, Etc / Hunt Lieberson, Bicket, Et Al
Throughout, Lieberson shows a comfortable, easy command of style, giving personality to each aria that gives us a sense of situation and character even in this out-of-context setting. From the very first lines of her opening recitative "Ah! Whither should we fly...?"--strong, full-toned, clear, and believably (not artificially) expressive--we're drawn into her performance. And the following aria, "As with rosy steps" (one of Handel's masterpieces), supported by undulating strings, perfectly describes the advancing, hopeful morning--and Lieberson's sensitively sculpted rendition of text and melody is as lovely as we'll likely ever hear.
My favorite La Lucrezia remains the one by Magdalena Kožená (type Q3027 in Search Reviews)--her characterization is simply more captivating, her vocalism just that much more assured--but this one is equally worthy in its slightly more restrained approach. Lieberson doesn't seem as free in the fastest passages (the aria "Il suol che preme...", for example)--in fact, the quick runs sound cautious rather than confident--but overall her portrayal is wonderful and rightly imagined. She also receives terrific support from her accompanists--including Stephen Stubbs (lute and guitar), Phoebe Carrai (cello), and Margriet Tindemans (gamba)--and benefits from sympathetic leadership by Harry Bicket (who also plays harpsichord). There's some great music-making here--and some really fine arias that will please Handel fans. Lieberson's five Theodora arias are exceptional; her concluding "Ombra mai fù" from Serse is a gem. The sound is slightly dry but crisp and clear and well balanced.
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
Catalog Number: AV0030
Composer: George Frideric Handel
Conductor: Harry Bicket
Orchestra/Ensemble: Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Performer: Harry Bicket, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Margriet Tindemans, Phoebe Carrai, Stephen Stubbs