Nathalie Stutzmann: Heroes From the Shadows
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Nathalie Stutzmann: "Heroes From the Shadows"

spacer Arias by Handel. With Jaroussky. Orfeo 55, Stutzmann. Texts and translations. Erato 08256 46231775


Nathalie Stutzmann’s new recital disc, Heroes from the Shadows, refers to the minor characters in Handel’s operas who sing the star-quality arias presented here. But the title aptly suits the French contralto herself, who steps onto the podium with the instrumental ensemble she founded in 2009. One can only imagine how many singers of Baroque music would love to bypass the historically inaccurate conductor, so it’s a pleasure to hear the musically confident and imaginative Stutzmann get her way. 

Perhaps another result of the singer’s being in charge is that Erato’s engineers have handsomely captured her very individual timbre, a dark, countertenor-ish sound that has not always registered attractively on disc. When countertenor Philippe Jaroussky joins Stutzmann for a sensitive, expressive reading of the duet “Son nata a lagrimar,” from Giulio Cesare, the sonorities are deliciously languid and the effect utterly hypnotic.

Stutzmann’s musical intelligence permeates the disc, with highly personalized and persuasive readings of arias both well-known and obscure. She keeps Polinesso’s “Dover, giustizia, amor,” from Ariodante, alive with energy and vigor, and plunges into the final section of “Pena tiranna,” from Amadigi, with sweeping crescendos and all-out romantic phrasing. In each selection, the ornamentation is inventive and surprising without ever sounding contrived or excessively thought-out.

Sustaining interest for all ten minutes of Arianna in Creta’s “Son qual stanco pellegrino” is no problem, as Stutzmann and the solo cello play off each other with expressive musical gestures and rhapsodic, improvisatory phrasing. And the rollicking hunting calls of “Io seguo sol fiero,” from Partenope, conclude with a hilarious cadenza, Stutzmann duetting with the natural horn in lip trills and raspberries.

Under Stutzmann’s strong leadership, the instrumental playing by Orfeo 55 is pungent and full of quirky character, from the ferocious string volleys of the virtuoso “Sarò qual vento,” from Alessandro, to the teasing rubatos of the deceptive cadences of Zenobia’s combative “Son contenta di morire,” from Radamisto, in which the final note sounds like a triumphant growl of confidence from a fully invested ensemble. spacer 


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