Handel wrote his ten Italian duets in two groups, in Hanover in 1710/11, after his return from Italy, and in England in the 1740s. They are secular cantatas da camera, intended to be performed at private gatherings in wealthy homes; each consists of several episodes of recitative and arias accompanied by continuo, and there is no real stylistic difference between the earlier and the later groups - or, for that matter, between these cantatas and the great operas he was writing at the same time. They are filled with melodic inspiration and ingenious scene-painting, and Handel liked them well enough to reuse their material frequently in later work, including Messiah. And when well sung, they offer constant delight at every turn.
Rossana Bertini has a somewhat edgy voice, but she does well enough in this recording, in both the expressive recitative and arioso arias and in the florid coloratura of the repeats. The continuo provided by La Venexaiana is very good, crisp and full in sound. But this otherwise excellent disc is spoiled for me by the Claudio Cavini's hollow falsetto, which is troublesome when solo and has a timbre that never blends well with Bertini's soprano. Paul Esswood and Maria Zadori have much better voices and provide effective performances on an old Supraphon set that includes other cantatas as well. But if you can put up with Cavini's hooting, you will find this music thoroughly enjoyable.
Copyright © 1999, Alexander J. Morin