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Handel’s pastorals belong to a venerable artistic tradition, rich in symbolic reflections on the good life. Il pastor fido, based on Guarini’s eponymous courtly poem, projects the genre’s leisurely concerns across the span of Italian opera. The work was fashioned by Handel and his librettist, Giacomo Rossi, as an intimate vision of Arcadia which leftdrama-hungry audiences feeling short changed at its first London run. Handel revised and expanded the score in the 1730s, casting his 1712 version into obscurity until Abingdon Opera restored it to life in 1971. David Bates and his companions make a virtue of simplicity in their world premiere recording of the original work. There’s no want of surface detail, stylish phrasing or imaginative points of articulation here. But it’s the natural ease of La Nuova Musica’s work that leaves the deepest impression. Listen, for example, to the poetic beauty of Mertillo’s Act I aria, ‘Lontan del mio tesoro’, exquisitely crafted by Anna Dennis and her continuo partners.

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Early Music Today, 2012 - ©Rhinegold Publishing