Sunday, 8 November 2015

Young Handel, Young Lezhneva

One of my best memories was a few years ago visiting Halle in Saxony and wandering round the “Händel-Haus” where Georg Fridiric Händel was born and lived until he was an advanced teenager. I was in the church in the Marktplatz where Handel learned to play the organ (and I attended a midday recital on that same organ). What a man! At 21 years old, already an established composer and musician, he was to be found in Italy, where he stayed for a few years absorbing everything that mattered musically of that period. On a new CD, the wonderful Julia Lezhneva sings music Handel composed during that Italian period when he was in his early 20s. Lezhneva is 25, so it's a meeting of two young musicians of top quality. I love her new Handel disc! The music is exuberant and challenging to perform (the many violin solos were probably written for Arcangelo Corelli, whom Handel met many times). Lezhneva surmounts 99% of the obstacles (no living mortal could score 100% in this show-off music of youth without a Walter Legge demanding 120 re-takes). Her long notes in Per dar pregio all'amor mio are something to be heard; she must have the lungs of a whale. For an hour or so, one has the impression of two young people – composer and singer – revelling in their youthful powers to impress and astound.

Not to forget a mention for Il Giardino Armonico, led by Giovanni Antonini. As a frequent sour critic of many “period” instrument bands, I can at least admire the better ones. A day or so before I had listened to the admirable Lucy Crowe in much of the same Handel in Italy music. Alas, her accompanying band, The English Consort, sounds very much full of Inglesi when compared with Antonini's enthusiastic Italiani. For the “Corelli” violin accompaniment on this disc, we have Dmitry Sinkovsky. A rare treat. Straight into my “keep to hand” rack. I could happily ascend to Heaven (or somewhere lower, in all probability) listening to Julia Lezhneva singing the music of Handel's Italian period.

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