Handel: English Cantatas / Kennedy, Bruce-Payne, Brook Street Band

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It is interesting to see what uses musical amateurs of Handel’s day made of his scores, and the singing by Nicki Kennedy is excellent.

HANDEL Cantatas: So Pleasing the Pain Is. 1,2 With Roving and with Ranging. 1,2 To Lonely Shades 1,2 & Nicki Kennedy (sop); 1 Sally Bruce-Payne (alt); 2 The Brook Street Band (period instruments) AVIE 2153 (2 CDs: 118:57 Text and Translation)

& HANDEL Songs: 1 An answer to Collin’s complaint. Dear Adonis, beauty’s treasure. The forsaken nymph. I like the am’rous youth. Love’s but the frailty of the mind. ’Twas when the seas were roaring. Transporting joy

This recording is titled “Handel’s English Cantatas.” The three works consist of 13 arias and three duets from three Handel operas, Giulio Cesare, Ottone , and Flavio , with new English texts and arranged for two violins and basso continuo . The arrangements have been attributed to Handel, but this claim is very doubtful. The form of each work, a series of arias ending with a duet, without linking recitative, is otherwise unknown in Handel, and there is no evidence that Handel had any part in putting these works together. The notes to this recording make as good a case as can be made for Handel’s involvement, but I remain unconvinced. The works themselves make enjoyable listening, since the music is taken from three of Handel’s best operas, and it is interesting to see what uses musical amateurs of Handel’s day made of his scores.

The performances are generally enjoyable. Nicki Kennedy is the more pleasing of the two soloists. Sally Bruce-Payne has a large voice that does not sound like it is always completely under her control, and she has an annoying habit of giving a very strong accent to some words; for example, in So Pleasing the Pain Is her overstress produces too strong an emphasis on some syllables. Fortunately, she manages to control this tendency most of the time. The Brook Street Band, consisting of two violins, cello, and harpsichord, plays expertly, and one hardly misses the full orchestra for which these works were originally written.

According to the catalog of Handel’s works in the New Grove , these three cantatas were arranged for different voices than those assigned to them here: So Pleasing the Pain Is for tenor and baritone, With Roving and with Ranging for soprano and baritone, and To Lonely Shades for soprano and tenor. The notes are silent on the arrangements made for this recording.

There are two English cantatas that are accepted as legitimate. Look Down, Harmonious Saint , a single recitative and aria, is not included here but can be found as a supplement to Robert King’s recording of Acis and Galatea . The second, Venus and Adonis , survives in fragmentary form as two arias with harpsichord accompaniment. Those two arias, Dear Adonis, beauty’s treasure and Transporting joy , are included here in a group of seven songs. Many songs have been attributed to Handel. A few years ago, Somm released a recording of all of the songs of unquestioned attribution. Four of them are included here, though one ( An answer to Collin’s complaint ) is performed in a harpsichord arrangement. The forsaken nymph and the two arias from Venus and Adonis are recording premieres. All are excellently sung by Nicki Kennedy.

The three newly recorded items make this recording a must for dedicated Handelians, and the three English cantatas make interesting listening.

FANFARE: Ron Salemi

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: AV2153

  • UPC: 822252215328

  • Label: AVIE

  • Composer: George Frideric Handel

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Brook Street Band

  • Performer: Nicki Kennedy, Sally Bruce-Payne