Classical CD releases: Handel: Oratorio Arias

Daniels/Ensemble Orchestral de Paris/ Nelson (Virgin Classics)

The counter-tenor David Daniels is such a profoundly musical Handel interpreter, it is disappointing that so far he has sung so few roles in that composer's operas and oratorios complete on disc. Until he does, we shall have to be content with mixed recitals such as his earlier collection of operatic arias, and now this selection of arias from the oratorios. It is not a predictable survey of Handel's lollipops but a tour of less well-known numbers, some originally written for castrati, others for female singers. Daniels lavishes on them all the characteristics of his art: an effortless, seductive tone, phrasing of unfailing elegance and a faultless distillation of the drama of the text into a concentrated essence.

On the survey of Britten's canticles, Daniels's contribution must take second place to that of Ian Bostridge, for a tenor is the constant factor throughout the five works, all written for Peter Pears, while a countertenor is needed for only two. But in the second, Abraham and Isaac, Bostridge and Daniels are exquisitely matched, their silky tones melting into a single sound. Bostridge has truly taken over Pears's mantle now; there is no modern tenor who sings Britten with more authority.

A brief sample of Britten's folk song arrangements, democratically divided between the three singers, ends the disc. All are first-rate, but Daniels's account of O Waly, Waly just about steals the show.

Contributor

Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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