Handel Goes Wild 
Arias from Alcina, Rinaldo et al 
Nuria Rial s, Valer Sabadus ct, L’Arpeggiata/Christina Pluhar
Erato 9029581169

Listening to this disc is like watching as a group of squatters set up camp in your home, scrawling graffiti over the wallpaper, breaking up furniture for firewood and smashing the crockery, while you plead uselessly with them to stop. What scraps and fragments of Handel are left intact after L’Arpeggiata’s ravages have a certain poignant value, but their beauty only serves to underline the senseless waste of Handel Goes Wild.

Like their previous Purcell disc, this recording subjects its source composer to a series of reworkings and reimaginings, borrowing now from cocktail lounge jazz and blues, now from klezmer and Moorish folk, and even bebop. There’s little evidence of the impeccable taste and musical wit that were once the signature of this outstanding group.

Where to start with this ill-judged, poorly executed hotch-potch? Perhaps with the ghastly faux-lullaby of O sleep, why dost thou leave me, its trickling, twinkling hotel foyer piano accompaniment transforming Semele’s aria into Handel For Babies; or Where’er you walk, where straight vocals are set against a smirking, jazzed-up obbligato clarinet. These might be fine if they had the courage of their convictions. It’s the uneasy negotiation between radiant soprano Nuria Rial and rising young countertenor Valer Sabadus, who play things totally straight, and the instrumental liberties taken around them. By the end, it wasn’t Handel going wild, it was me. Wild with anger.


Limelight, Australia's Classical Music and Arts Magazine