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Monday, May 27, 2019

Simone Kermes, Mio Caro Handel, Amici Veneziani

It is decisively certain I feel as I begin my morning write-up today. That is because I feel happily confident that soprano Simone Kermes and the chamber ensemble Amici Veneziani give us state-of-the-art readings of arias by George Frideric Handel on Mio Caro Handel (SONY Classical 19073861772). As a Handel follower myself this is a wonderful thing to me. Yet even if there is a chance you might not be that thoroughly into Handel this recording I believe would bring you to a place where you got it completely. That is if you opened yourself to this album as it plays out.

A listen to the first track will give you something of what makes the recording wonderful in microcosm. From Rinaldo we hear the literally tempestuous "Furie terribili." The tempo is maddenly, delightfully quick, the brio is almost incredibly rousing and Ms. Kermes charges forth with only a bit of vibrato and lots of genuine fire. Wow!

The rest of the album lives up to the promise of the opener. There is no vestige of affective overkill yet it is not in the least bit perfunctory. It is in fact exemplary Modern Early Music performance practice--where the continuo is crisp and timbrally rich, and the soprano-instrumental blend is without a trace of scooping sentimentality or overstuffing, nor is it in the least bit cold. Simone hits every note with chiming clearness, a sweetness and an elegant grace, with total control and a subtle employment of vibrato in terminal points or for lyric emphasis without the least bit of a wobble. Her long and fluid melismas are a thing to behold, too. If you have an ear and it is ever present in every listen you make, which it is the nature to be the case if it is there at all, then you will appreciate the true musicality of Simone Kermes' every move here. So I hope.

As the title suggests there is love for Handel in this music. One feels that strongly. And if one also loves Handel's ways (as I do), all the happier a confluence is this collection. From the beautifully tender to the boisterously awesome, the arias are wide-ranging, not always obvious and touch upon the fine subtleties and the bold contrasts that comprise Simone Kermes and Amici Veneziani's fine art.

Some 15 arias form the program, expressing a Handelian universe of humors and articulations. So we get select gems from Guilio Cesare in Egitto, La Resurrezioni, Serse, Teseo, Rodelinda, Athalia, Saul, and on from there.

The liners give us a heartfelt, loving appreciation of George Frideric's centrality to Simone Kermes' musical and situational well-being. We read and it jibes completely with the aural evidence--the loving care Simone and Amici Veneziani bring to every note on this album. A shout-out of appreciation to concertmaster Boris Bagelman by the way. He and the ensemble shine throughout.

It is about as beautifully right a Handelian recital can be without pulling the earth out of orbit. Kermes loves Handel and that love is true! Truly. We all benefit from this feeling with marvelous music. Do not miss it.

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