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Track Listing:

Handel - Sinfonia From Alcina, act 3
Handel - Venti turbine Aria di Rinaldo, from Rinaldo
Handel - O sleep, why thost thou leave me Aria di Semele, from Semele
Vivaldi - Concerto in g-minor (RV 157)
Handel - Wherever you walk Aria di Semele, from Semele
Handel - Cara sposa Aria di Rinaldo from Rinaldo
Handel - Sinfonia Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, from Solomon
Handel - Pena tiranna Aria di Dardano, from Amadigi di Gaula
Handel - Piangero la sorte mia Aria di Cleopatra, from Giulio Cesare
Handel - Improvisation Canario
Handel - Verdi prati Aria di Ruggiero, from Alcina
Handel - Tu del ciel ministro eletto Aria di Belezza, from Il trionfo del Tempo e della Verita
Handel - Mi lusinga il dolce affetto Aria di Ruggiero, from Alcina
Handel - Lascio ch'io pianga Aria di Almirena, from Rinaldo
Handel - Ombra mai fu Aria di Serse, from Serse

Christina Pluhar | L'Arpeggiata :

Handel Goes Wild

Händel Goes Wild
L'Arpeggiata – Christina Pluhar
Release date: 1st September 2017

George Frideric Handel now joins Purcell, Monteverdi and Cavalli on the list of composers who have inspired an album by Christina Pluhar and her ensemble L'Arpeggiata. 

Händel Goes Wild brings them together with soprano Nuria Rial, countertenor Valer Sabadus and jazz clarinettist Gianluigi Trovesi to explore and reimagine the cosmopolitan composer's music in their own inimitable and intoxicating style. L'Arpeggiata's aesthetic was summed up by the New York Times in 2012: "The group uses modern pop vocal inflections and improvisational techniques from jazz in its performances of antique pieces … Its audacious hybrids are driven principally by a fascination with reviving the Baroque art of ornamental extemporization and a curiosity about how contemporary improvisatory styles might be enlisted in that quest."

Handel's music is so sublime that it can be easy to forget that he was a master of show business – not just a composer of genius, but also a brilliant impresario. He had a keen eye for market trends, and in the space of 15 years launched and ran three commercial opera companies in London. He was also extraordinarily prolific: his vocal compositions alone include 42 operas, 29 oratorios and more than 120 cantatas, and today he is probably the most-performed composer of the pre-Classical era.

The title of this new album refers first and foremost to the imaginative treatment his music receives from L'Arpeggiata, but Christina Pluhar reminds us that "Handel must have been pretty wild himself," quoting this famous anecdote: "At a rehearsal for his opera Ottone, when the celebrated soprano Francesca Cuzzoni refused to sing the aria ‘Falsa immagine', he became so furious that he grabbed her round the waist and threatened to throw her out of the window."

Fortunately, the ‘wildness' on this album is purely pleasurable. Händel Goes Wild is in the beguiling vein of Music For A While – Improvisations on Henry Purcell, released by L'Arpeggiata on Erato in 2014. Praising that album, BBC Music Magazine wrote: "Long experienced in fusing Baroque with jazz-inspired performance styles, L'Arpeggiata's approach breathes new life into the Restoration composer, whose ground basses are akin to riffs, his melodies folk-like in their raw simplicity ... Baroque instruments and a jazz-style combo mix to intriguing effect" 

Christina Pluhar reminds us that Handel was "a dramatic genius of the first order", and this view is reflected in the album's colourful selection of arias from his stage works. Complemented by purely instrumental tracks (including the exhilarating Arrival of the Queen of Sheba from Solomon), the numbers include such favourites as the haunting ‘Lascia ch'io pianga' from Rinaldo, the confident 'Where'er you walk' from Semele, the reflective ‘Ombra mai fu' from Serse (known for many years as ‘Handel's Largo') and the lamenting ‘Piangerò la sorte mia' from Giulio Cesare. Handel tended to write his arias in the form of a ‘da capo', with a contrasting middle section followed by a repeat of the first section that offers a legitimate opportunity for ‘wildness'. "All baroque composers used strict forms," explains Pluhar, "but those forms would also allow the singers and musicians to improvise and add ornament freely, especially in the da capo repeat."

Nurial Rial, whose voice has been described by the Guardian as "pristine, gracious, featherweight" collaborated with L'Arpeggiata on its albums of Cavalli and Monteverdi, but this is the ensemble's first recording with Valer Sabadus, who offers a high-lying, brilliantly agile countertenor. "When I work with singers," says Christina Pluhar, "I always try to find exactly the right pieces for their voices, so that they can shine and touch the listener as much possible. But I also choose pieces in which I sense a certain harmonic and melodic ambiguity that allows us to travel musically between centuries."

Exemplifying that musical time travel is the presence of a great jazz musician, the clarinettist Gianluigi Trovesi, who has performed frequently with L'Arpeggiata and contributed to Music For A While – Improvisations on Henry Purcell. In the words of Jazz Times, he is "a visionary spirit and a conceptualizer who reimagines jazz in vivid Mediterranean hues, dancing folkloric themes, and bursts of vivid color." Surely that makes him the kind of musician who would have driven Handel wild with enthusiasm.