Les Passions de l’Ame – Bewitched – Enchanted Music by Geminiani & Händel (2014) [FLAC 24bit/96kHz]

Les Passions de l’Ame – Bewitched – Enchanted Music by Geminiani & Händel (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz  | Time – 59:53 minutes | 1,11 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Booklet, Front Cover | © deutsche harmonia mundi

This is a somewhat odd mixture of late baroque works, but the title and the booklet blurb offer a certain logic to it. The most substantial work in the programme is Francesco Geminiani’s ‘The Enchanted Forest’, a lively and colourful orchestral suite composed in 1754 for the Paris stage for a pantomime illustrating a section from Torquato Tasso’s ‘La Gerusalemme Liberata’. Halfway through its performance here, we get Handel’s solo soprano cantata ‘Armida abbandonata’, also based on Tasso’s narrative of the doomed love affair between crusader Rinaldo and the sorceress Armida. And, for still more variety, the disc begins with Geminiani’s orchestral transcription of Corelli’s ‘La Follia’ variations from the latter composer’s sonata opus 5 no. 12.
So, although the rationale is a bit dubious, the music is all somehow associated with witchcraft and it does add up to an enjoyable late-baroque programme. What’s more, it’s all extremely well performed by the very talented Swiss-based early-music ensemble Les Passions de l’Âme directed by violinist Meret Lüthi. They bring superb style and expression to the opening ‘La Follia’ piece, and vivid energy to Geminiani’s sequence of orchestral movements – the more vigorous sections with horns and trumpet going especially well and producing spectacular instrumental textures in places.

Handel’s cantata, sung by soprano Robin Johannsen as the sorceress Armida, is beautifully done; it’s a cool, controlled, pure-voiced rendering which suits the music well, with the singer decorating the da capo sections in fine style and the instruments providing excellent accompaniment. There are other fine performances of this cantata on disc, of which those sung by Eva Mei and Maria Cristina Kiehr are among my favourites, but Ms Johannsen does an equally fine job.

Altogether, this is an enterprising and enjoyable programme although the juxtaposition of these works may not suit all tastes. The rather airy-fairy booklet notes – in English, French, German and Japanese – don’t help much, stopping well short of describing the music in detail, let alone setting out any kind of programme or agenda for the individual movements. The ‘Armida’ cantata text is given in Italian only, with no translation. ~ Stephen Midgley Amazon

01. Concerto grosso in D Minor, Op. 5, No. 6, “La Follia”
02. La foresta incantata: I. Andante
03. La foresta incantata: II. Allegro moderato
04. La foresta incantata: III. Andante
05. La foresta incantata: IV. Allegro moderato
06. La foresta incantata: V. Andante-Adagio
07. La foresta incantata: VI. Allegro moderato
08. La foresta incantata: VII. Andante spiritoso
09. La Foresta Incantata: VIII. Adagio
10. La foresta incantata: IX. Allegro
11. La foresta incantata: X. Grave
12. La foresta incantata: XI. Allegro moderato
13. Armida abbandonata, HWV 105: Dietro l’orme fugaci (Accompagnato)
14. Armida abbandonata, HWV 105: Ah! crudele, e pur ten vai (Aria)
15. Armida abbandonata, HWV 105: Per te mi struggo, infido (Recitativo)
16. Armida abbandonata, HWV 105: O voi, dell’incostante (Accompagnato)
17. Armida abbandonata, HWV 105: Venti fermate si (Aria)
18. Armida abbandonata, HWV 105: Ma che parlo, che dico (Recitativo)
19. Armida abbandonata, HWV 105: In tanti affanni miei (Aria)
20. La foresta incantata: XII.
21. La Foresta Incantata: XIII.
22. La foresta incantata: XIV. Allegro moderato
23. La foresta incantata: XV. Andante-Allegro-Andante-Adagio-Affetuoso-Allegro-Allegro moderato
24. La foresta incantata: XVI. Andante
25. La Foresta Incantata: XVII. Allegro
26. La Foresta Incantata: XVIII. Affetuoso-Allegro

Geminiani, Francesco (1687-1762)
Handel, George Frideric (1685-1759)

Les Passions de l’Ame
Meret Lüthi (concert master)
Robin Johannsen (soprano)