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Rinaldo

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

This recording has plenty to recommend it, despite the star power of its competition. The Aradia Ensemble--17 string players, 11 wind and brass players and four continuo players--are a lively, more-than-proficient group of period instrumentalists who, under Kevin Mallon, play the heck out of Handel's colorful, ever-changing score, and can be compared with the finest ensembles around. The obbligato oboist, harpsichordist, and sopranino recorder virtuoso (in Almirena's gorgeous first act "bird" aria) are superb. Mallon doesn't go for fierce string attacks, but every bit of his leadership has spring and energy. He and his cast are particularly careful with the recitatives, which are dramatically put forth. The cast is uniformly good. Everyone embellishes the vocal line with skill and ease, and if Armida's ornaments are a bit wild, well, so is the character. Kimberly Barber is fine as Rinaldo. Her voice is well-knit, and there are no weaknesses. Much the same might be said of Laura Whalen's Almirena. Her voice is lovely--pristine but not white--and she sings handsomely. But if you've heard Cecilia Bartoli and Ileana Cotrubas in the role, it is easy to realize how alluring this character should be, and Whalen misses by a bit. I'm nit-picking, but the competition is fearful. The Argante of baritone Sean Watson is exciting and aggressive, and his agility and diction are impeccable. He's in league with the best. Barbara Hannigan's Armida is nicely teeth-gnashing: she sings the heck out of her arias and duets and her recits are delivered with real fire. The others in the cast are more than up to their jobs. In brief, then, this remains third choice, after Jacobs (Harmonia Mundi) and Hogwood (Decca), but the fact that it is half the price of the others makes it a very close third. --Robert Levine

Rinaldo

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