This is an outstanding recording. From Alice Coote’s first phrase, unfolding in a single velvet caress of legato and richly-spun vibrato, to her final joyous vocal flourish at the close of Ariodante’s ‘Dopo Notte’, it showcases not only Handel’s dramatic range — his extraordinary sensitivity to mood and emotion — but also Coote’s own. The trouble is that the album already exists.
Coote’s voice is better suited to 24-carat tragedy than to the agile rages of Handel’s sorceresses and soldiers. She shines in the sustained psychodrama of Sesto’s ‘Caro Speme’ or Ariodante’s epic ‘Scherza Infida’, but lacks the bladed ferocity demanded by arias like ‘Where shall I fly?’ or ‘Doppo Notte’.
But while Harry Christophers’ Symphony of Harmony and Invention swathe Connolly a little too heavily in insulating, soft-focus strings, Harry Bicket’s English Concert are far more sparing — a rougher and more evocative foil to the vocal drama.