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Thread: Handel opera/cantata box sets

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    Senior Member Elgarian's Avatar
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    Default Handel opera/cantata box sets

    My Baroque odyssey of recent months has led me in a strange roundabout way to Handel (the quirkiness of having arrived at Handel via Couperin, Charpentier, Mondonville, Delalande, Lully, Rameau, Durante and Purcell rather tickles me), most particularly his vocal music, which I've blithely been ignoring all my life on the assumption that it wasn't 'my kind of thing'. I now find it's very much my kind of thing after all, so I've been dutifully studying the Penguin and Gramophone Guides to see where to go, and which recordings to get.

    First up for consideration was Alcina, in the famous version by Christie and Les Arts Florissants with a star-studded cast (Fleming, Graham, Dessay), thus:



    (available here for 41)

    But ... this recording has been reissued as part of the Warner 'Handel Edition' in a 6 CD box, thus:



    Now this is available for a mere 19 here, AND you also get Orlando, in the highly regarded Christie version, thrown in for good measure. Orlando, bought separately on Amazon, would knock you back another 41 (see here). So in this reissued box set, we get both works for 19, instead of 82 when bought separately.

    There's a snag of course. Although there is a booklet in the 6CD box, which has an effective keyed synopsis for each work, it has no librettos (unlike the original issues). However, 63 for two librettos doesn't seem like good value.

    The good news is that the librettos can be downloaded from the Warner website, and printed out - which is what I've done. I don't like this much - I'd far prefer to have the librettos in booklets contained within the sets; but the really important thing is that the librettos are available in an accessible form that works. And the final outcome is that by buying the box, and making do with the online material, these two superb recordings/performances can be had at about 3 per disc.

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    Super Moderator jhar26's Avatar
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    I have the Alcina/Fleming recording - the 41 version.:angry: I have an Orlando recording also - not this one but the Christopher Hogwood version.

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    Senior Member Elgarian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jhar26 View Post
    I have the Alcina/Fleming recording - the 41 version.:angry: I have an Orlando recording also - not this one but the Christopher Hogwood version.
    Well, I can't get enough of this stuff. It's like eating chocolates - once I start, I can't stop. I've only listened to about half of Alcina so far, but I'm tending to leave a disc in the player pretty much all the time while I'm pottering about doing things, without following the plot properly. I can't believe how accessible this music is - how easy to enjoy, and such marvellous tunes.

    Truth is, that this Alcina alone is worth 41 of anyone's money, so I don't think you need to shed too many tears over the price you paid.

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    Super Moderator jhar26's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elgarian View Post
    Well, I can't get enough of this stuff. It's like eating chocolates - once I start, I can't stop. I've only listened to about half of Alcina so far, but I'm tending to leave a disc in the player pretty much all the time while I'm pottering about doing things, without following the plot properly. I can't believe how accessible this music is - how easy to enjoy, and such marvellous tunes.

    Truth is, that this Alcina alone is worth 41 of anyone's money, so I don't think you need to shed too many tears over the price you paid.
    I don't shed any tears over it because at the time when I bought that Alcina the industry wasn't yet going through the crisis it's going through right now and there weren't yet those kind of bargains that there are now - not as many anyway. And I agree that it's a wonderful opera and recording.

    Two other Handel opera discs I love...




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    Senior Member Elgarian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jhar26 View Post
    I've certainly got this one on my 'to buy' list, and your additional recommendation will clinch it.

    Do you have this wonderful Acis and Galatea, Gaston?



    Sophie Daneman is simply wonderful as Galatea - she is rapidly becoming my yardstick for baroque soprano singing. (I should explain what I mean, because I have no concept of the technical issues: I'm talking purely about the subjective effect - the light, airy fluency; the apparently understated but deep emotional expression; the shiver up the spine.)

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    Super Moderator jhar26's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elgarian View Post

    Do you have this wonderful Acis and Galatea, Gaston?


    No, I haven't. But I'm sure it's a winner, so I've put it on my wish list.

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    Senior Member Elgarian's Avatar
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    OK, this is not a box set, but I need some help here:



    I have yet to read anything about this CD that doesn't declare it to be near perfection. "This may be the finest recital of Handel arias ever recorded" says the Gramophone reviewer, awarding it their highest rating. I've been steeping myself in Handel during the last few weeks with the greatest pleasure, and so I settled to listen to this with more than the usual buzz that accompanies a new purchase.

    Well (admittedly after only one listening), I don't get it. An awful lot of this CD seems to consist of something rather like fast virtuoso yodelling. I can see that it's astonishingly clever; I can see that maybe no one else can do such things so well as Sandrine Piau does on this CD; but I can't see why I might want to listen to it for more than 10 minutes (if that). When I compare this with the heavenly singing of Sophie Daneman in (say) Acis and Galatea, I just don't understand.

    I'm not going to give up. I am going to persist, grit my teeth, ignore the headache, and try my damnedest to love it as I should. But if someone could give me a word or two of encouragement, I'd be mighty glad of it ....

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    Senior Member Elgarian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elgarian View Post
    I'm not going to give up.
    Well, today I feel rather silly. On a second listening I discovered (a) that there is far less on this disc of what I call 'yodelling' than I thought there was; and (b) that there's quite a lot of marvellously evocative singing on it. What went wrong yesterday? I don't know. The wrong sort of biorhythms? Got out of the wrong side of the bed? Too high expectations?

    Whatever the reason, I was talking rubbish. It's true that there's more 'yodelling' than I'd like, but there's lots and lots to enjoy as well. My apologies, Mme Piau.

    Memo to self: Listen at least twice before posting about new music....

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    Super Moderator jhar26's Avatar
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    I love the Fleming recital (but as you know I'm partial to Fleming), but calling the Piau disc the "finest recital of Handel arias ever recorded" is rare praise indeed. If it weren't for your doubts I might even be tempted to buy it myself.

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    Super Moderator jhar26's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elgarian View Post
    Well, today I feel rather silly. On a second listening I discovered (a) that there is far less on this disc of what I call 'yodelling' than I thought there was; and (b) that there's quite a lot of marvellously evocative singing on it. What went wrong yesterday? I don't know. The wrong sort of biorhythms? Got out of the wrong side of the bed? Too high expectations?

    Whatever the reason, I was talking rubbish. It's true that there's more 'yodelling' than I'd like, but there's lots and lots to enjoy as well. My apologies, Mme Piau.

    Memo to self: Listen at least twice before posting about new music....
    I guess you can ignore my previous post which I wrote while you were posting your second thoughts.

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    Senior Member Elgarian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jhar26 View Post
    If it weren't for your doubts I might even be tempted to buy it myself.
    I think you'd be better off ignoring my doubts. Who knows what will happen after another couple of listenings? I'm turning into a flibberty-gibbet.

    Incidentally, Penguin also pick it out as superb: they give it a three star rating and mark it as a 'key' recording.

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    Super Moderator jhar26's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elgarian View Post
    I think you'd be better off ignoring my doubts. Who knows what will happen after another couple of listenings? I'm turning into a flibberty-gibbet.
    As long as everything keeps improving each time you listen that must be a wonderfull problem to have.
    Incidentally, Penguin also pick it out as superb: they give it a three star rating and mark it as a 'key' recording.
    Penguin gives almost everything a three star rating though. 'Key recording' - you mean they give it a rosette?

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    Senior Member Elgarian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jhar26 View Post
    Penguin gives almost everything a three star rating though. 'Key recording' - you mean they give it a rosette?
    No, a 'key' recording has a little key symbol by it to draw attention to it as their top recommendation. The 'rosette' is a special award given to a recording by a single member of the reviewing team who has a particularly high regard for it (which may not necessarily be shared by others, I suppose).

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    Super Moderator jhar26's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elgarian View Post
    No, a 'key' recording has a little key symbol by it to draw attention to it as their top recommendation. The 'rosette' is a special award given to a recording by a single member of the reviewing team who has a particularly high regard for it (which may not necessarily be shared by others, I suppose).
    I see. I only have a very old penguin guide (mid-90's I guess) where they didn't yet use the key symbol.

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    Senior Member Elgarian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jhar26 View Post
    I see. I only have a very old penguin guide (mid-90's I guess) where they didn't yet use the key symbol.
    There are a few recordings that qualify for both a key AND a rosette ....

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