Unaffecting Handel from Coote and Bicket

Review by: Robert Levine


Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 7

British mezzo Alice Coote is a marvelous, refined artist, in the manner of Anne Murray and, to a lesser extent, Janet Baker. Her singing is elegant, her coloratura excellent and free of aspirates; she has conquered many levels of dynamics. (In contrast, Baker has conquered all levels of dynamics; rarely has a singer managed eight levels of piano!) On the other hand, the voice itself is somewhat generic–not particularly easy to pick out in a crowd–and is weakish at the bottom.

Oddly, these last two observations are not what sinks this CD. Coote and normally wonderful conductor Harry Bicket have opted for some perversely slow tempos: The gorgeous “Scherza infida” takes almost 12 minutes, which is matched only by Anne Sofie von Otter’s reading under Minkowski; somehow the latter makes tragic and heavily sad what Coote and Bicket make lugubrious. There is no inner pace; just a slow drag. By comparison, Baker takes four minutes less and David Daniels three–and they don’t seem rushed.

“Where shall I fly?”, from Hercules, certainly one of the most hysterical/horrifying arias ever penned, is here well-articulated–a lesson in prim singing. “Dopo notte,” Ariodante’s final word after her ordeal, is sung at a nice clip, but it is bland, lacking the sense of relief it calls for. On the other hand “Verdi prati” from Alcina is ravishing, and “Sta nell’Ircana” is exciting–Ruggiero is a role that suits Coote well.

I fear that part of the problem with this recital is the quality of the sound. The engineers have done her no favors: the voice, while not exactly recessed, is so at one with the strings that it lacks presence; sometimes you forget that it’s there. Bicket’s English Concert does not sound particularly vivid either. Sorry to say it, but this release is a dud.

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Recording Details:

  • HANDEL, G.F.:
    Arias from Radamisto, Alcina, Hercules, Giulio Cesare, & Ariodante

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