This attractive album focuses on the young and prolific Handel during his years of residence in Italy, the most celebrated product of which is his setting of Dixit dominus from 1707. However, at the invitation of various aristocratic patrons in Rome and Florence around this time, he also composed many secular cantatas which have only in recent years received their due attention on record; not least thanks to Brilliant Classics, who have published four volumes of Italian cantatas with the Contrasto Armonico ensemble (BC93999, BC94000, BC94230 and BC94257). This album from another historically informed Italian ensemble is not a rival but complement to them. Ah, che pur troppo è vero (HWV 77) was composed in Florence around 1707, and Care selve, aure grate (HWV 88) was written in Rome between 1707 and 1708. A final contribution to the genre, Dolc' è pur d'amor l'affanno (HWV 109b), was produced in London around 1718, by which time Handel was the toast of London. All the cantatas tell tales of love found and lost, with pining arias and sprightly recitative, already distinguished by the powerful match of melody to mood and superb understanding of the voice that would make Handel the opera composer of his age.
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