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By George Frideric Handel (Georg Friedrich Händel)
(HWV 18, London 1724). Decca (October 2013).
Brochure (pdf). Riccardo Minasi, Il Pomo d'Oro.
Asteria: Karina Gauvin, soprano; Andronico: Max Emanuel
Cencic, countertenor; Irene: Ruxandra Donose,
mezzo-soprano; Tamerlano: Xavier Sabata, countertenor;
Bajazet: John Mark Ainsley, tenor; Leone: Pavel Kudinov,
Tamerlano. (HWV 18, London 1724). MDG 1457 (3 CDs,
September 2007). George Petrou, Orchestra of Patras (period
instruments). Asteria: Mata Katsuli, soprano; Andronico:
Mary-Ellen Nesi, mezzo-soprano; Irene: Irini Karagianni,
mezzo-soprano; Tamerlano: Nicholas Spanos, countertenor; Bajazet:
Tassis Christoyannis, baritone; Leone: Petros Magoulas, bass.
This fine new studio recording is the Tamerlano of choice. It features
for the first time on a commercial release all the music performed in 1724 with
none of Handel's numerous rejected drafts that appear in the HG score, and it
includes as an appendix the 1731 scene for Montagnana (not in HG) that
previously was recorded by Pinnock. The recording sounds similar to but better
than the same group's 2006 recording of Arianna in Creta. It may have
been recorded in the same hall, but there is just enough less reverberation to
clean up the sound without an adverse impact on the ambiance. The orchestra
sounds full and natural. You can hear the harpsichords throughout, and there is
no exaggeration of the lute as on a number of recent recordings.
The vocal highlight is the singing of the baritone Bajazet, Tassis
Christoyannis. His range is perfectly suited to the role (C-a'), and he breezes
effortlessly through the fast divisions and ornamentations. Mary-Ellen Nesi's
fine performance as Andronico, the other leading male part, is unique thus far
on a HIP recording, as the role has otherwise been assigned to countertenors.
While I enjoy and support falsetto singing, it is simply impossible for any
countertenor to match the power of an outstanding contralto like Ms. Nesi in the
lower register. The countertenor on this disk, Nicholas Spanos, delivers the
finest performance of the lead role yet on a commercial HIP recording.
Three arias in the 1724 version recorded here were not performed by either
Gardiner, Malgoire or Pinnock: Tamerlano's "Dammi pace" (HG, p. 18); Asteria's
"Se potessi" (HG, p. 86); and Andronico's "Se non mi rendi" (HG, p. 112).
The booklet includes the English version from the original wordbook and a
German translation by Reinhard Strohm.
Tamerlano. (HWV 18, London 1724). Erato NUM 75278 (3 LPs
1987) & ECD 88220 (3 CDs), reissued as 2292 454082 (3 CDs). John
Elliot Gardner, English Baroque Soloists. Tamerlano: Derek Lee
Ragin, countertenor; Bajazet: Nigel Robson, tenor; Asteria:
Nancy Argenta, soprano; Andronico: Michael Chance, countertenor;
Irene: Jane Findlay, mezzo-soprano; Leone: René Schirrer, bass.
This has fairly good sound for a live recording, but it sounds
thin and dry when compared to Petrou's recording. There are
numerous cuts, but additions include rejected draft arias not
recorded elsewhere, including the soprano version of Irene's "Dal
crudel" (HG, p. 31); the soprano version of Irene's "Par che mi
nasca in seno" with flutes rather than clarinets (HG, p. 58);
Asteria's accompagnato "Mirami" (HG, p. 133); the A section
only, unfortunately, of Asteria's superb pathetic aria "Padre
amato" which has a fast B section (HG, p. 134); and the
Tamerlano/Andronico duet "Coronata" (HG, p. 137). Nancy Argenta
is my favorite Asteria of those listed here, and Michael
Chance's fine Andronico is not inferior to the contralto
Andronico, simply different.
Tamerlano. (HWV 18, London 1724). CBS I3M 37893 (3 LPs
1984), reissued on 3 CDs as Sony SM3K 37893. Jean-Claude
Malgoire, La Grande Écurie et La Chambre du Roy. Tamerlano:
Henri Ledroit, countertenor; Bajazet: John Elwes, tenor; Asteria:
Mieke van der Sluis, soprano; Andronico: René Jacobs,
countertenor; Irene: Isabelle Poulenard, soprano; Leone: Gregory
Reinhart, bass. This studio recording was heavily cut, but it
includes a few of Handel's rejected drafts not recorded
elsewhere: Leone's "Se ad un costante" (HG, p. 109) and the
Irene/Tamerlano duet "Vedrò" (HG, p. 123).
Tamerlano. (HWV 18, London 1724). Avie AV 0001 (3 CDs
2002). Trevor Pinnock, The English Concert. Tamerlano: Monica
Bacelli, contralto; Bajazet: Tom Randle, tenor; Asteria:
Elizabeth Norberg-Schulz, soprano; Andronico: Graham Pushee,
countertenor; Irene: Anna Bonitatibus, mezzo-soprano; Leone:
Antonio Abete, bass. This is a rather unpleasant live recording
with copious applause and stage noise and wobbly Asteria and
Tamerlano. The vocal highlights are in the lesser roles -- Anna
Bonitatibus as Irene and Antonio Abete as Leone, and the music
performed includes the clarinet version of Irene's "Par che mi"
and the scene for Montagnana, both of which are also on the
Gasparini. Il Bajazet (Venice 1711). Libretto by Agostino Piovene. "It
is a remarkable fact that [Handel] preferred Piovene's version to the rather
similar drama by Salvi." Strohm, page 51.
Gasparini. Il Bajazet (Florence 1719). Gasparini re-set almost all the
arias due to changes in the text. Borosini, who had sung the title role, brought
the libretto and probably the score with him. When he arrived in London, Handel
already had completed the autograph based on the 1711 version. "It was primarily
in the opening and closing scenes that Handel borrowed from this more recent
version." Strohm, page 50.
Winton Dean & J. Merrill Knapp. Handel's Operas, 1704-1726. (Oxford
University Press 1995 (1987)).
R. Strohm, "Handel and his Italian opera texts." Essays on Handel and the
Italian Opera. (Oxford University Press 1985).
Le magazine de l'opera-baroque page on Tamerlano