Fiona Campbell breathes new life into an unfairly neglected Baroque masterpiece.
Concert-goers who heard Fiona Campbell last week in the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra’s Haunting Handel program will delight in a piece by Handel she has dusted off for its premiere recording.
The mezzo-soprano sings Caro autor di mia doglia (“Dear author of my grief”) with countertenor David Walker on a new collection of Baroque duets released this month.
Although the eight-minute work has not previously been recorded and represents a major revelation on disc, it was never actually lost. “The reason it’s been overlooked is not clear”, says the album’s executive producer Lyle Chan, “but it’s probably because the music exists in two manuscripts: one for soprano and tenor, and the other for two altos.
One of Handel’s earliest duets, the first version was completed in 1707. Some thirty years later the composer rescored the work for two altos in the version now catalogued as HWV 182b. “He was at the height of his powers then, and he made many significant improvements. The third movement is completely different”.
It is this final movement that Limelight is offering as a sneak preview for our readers (see below). The jubilant duet revels in love’s triumph over adversity: “Scourged by love discord flees, and the joy of loving hearts contribute to eternal flames”. Accompanied by continuo including chamber organ, the two alto voices join together in close coloratura harmony and sumptuous chains of suspensions.
Campbell is excited to present not one but two premieres on Baroque Duets, the second unearthed masterpiece being a chamber duet by Italian composer Agostino Steffani, a precurser to Handel. “Recordings such as this are a rare event in our industry today”, she says. “It’s a total coup for us to have made the first recording of these gems”.
The duo partners first met performing in Pinchgut Opera productions of Vivaldi’s Juditha Triumphans (2007) and Cavalli’s L’Ormindo (2009). American countertenor David Walker sees Campbell as a musical twin and a fellow Handelian par excellence. “Ever since we began working together Fiona and I have had a secret dream to record a duet CD. We knew our voices were an amazing match, so we’re thrilled we could bring this project to life with Ironwood, an orchestra of the highest artistic calibre”.
Recorded at the ABC centre in Ultimo, the CD is available on new Sydney-based label Vexations840.
Handel “Dagli amori flagellat” from Caro autor di mia doglia HWV 182b
Fiona Campbell m; David Walker ct; Ironwood
For more information visit www.baroqueduets.com