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Handel’s chamber duets are utterly different from the duets he composed for his operas and oratorios. Intended as private entertainment for aristocratic connoisseurs, the duetti da camera are a separate category of work, in which the voices are treated instrumentally rather than dramatically: the two singers sing the same text in long, melodic phrases that flow round each other in graceful counterpoint, accompanied only by continuo. The result is a compositional form akin more to the trio sonata than to the operatic duet.

Handel composed 20 or so chamber duets for various vocal pairings between the mid-1700s and the mid-1740s; this Glossa disc has all ten of his duetti for soprano and alto, superbly sung here by Roberta Invernizzi and Marina de Liso. Fabio Bonizzoni’s recordings of Handel’s Italian cantatas are the finest on disc, and he brings the same light, speedy touch and acute insight to the duets. Unlike other recordings, which alternate duets with cantatas, harpsichord with organ, one pair of singers with another, Bonizzoni eschews such spurious timbral diversity, allowing us to focus on the mercurial interplay of the vocal counterpoint. While the bracing tempos also help to sharpen the attention, it’s the entwined brilliance of Invernizzi and de Liso, the flash and sparkle of their voices in proximity, that is the disc’s keenest pleasure.

Graham Lock Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2014 - ©Rhinegold Publishing