In my post some time ago on The Top 10 Music That Gives Me Goose Bumps, I mentioned the famous aria “Lascia ch’io pianga” (Let me weep).
Georg Friedrich Händel
I still haven’t written about this piece, or actually about Georg Friedrich Händel (I still prefer his German spelling, although in later years he became one of the first “expats” of all times in London and the English spelling of George Frideric may be more familiar to you) in general
Rinaldo, as its HWV number of 7 indicates, is one of the earlier Händel works, but in spite of this, Lascia is what we’d call recycling today, as it has been used twice before in other works, once without words in his op. 1, the opera Almira (rarely played these days), and also in the oratorio Il Trionfo Del Tempo E Del Disinganno (which in spite of its HWV number of 71 is also really early, but was reworked).
This kind of recycling in the baroque area was very common, even Bach used it all over the place, by the way. Many cantatas all over sudden will remind you of the Christmas Oratorio, or have a piece of the Brandenburg concertos.
But back to Rinaldo. This was probably the first of his London operas. The story, is based during the first crusade near Jerusalem, and based on an epic by Torquato Tasso.
In spite of the great success of Lascia, the entire opera hasn’t been recorded that often. These days you basically have the choice between three versions (plus some DVD editions).
The oldest one is Jean-Claude Malgoires 1977 recording on Sony, still quite nice.
The to more recent ones are René Jacobs that I haven’t written about a lot yet, and Christopher Hogwood, both from the first decade of this century. Between the two I have a preference for Hogwood, thanks to its outstanding cast, in spite of the fact that Cecilia Bartoli sometimes is a bit heavy in terms of vibrato (I prefer the cleaner singing of the modern “historically informed performance” style).
This recording should be on every collectors shelf (or these days more likely, hard drive).
My rating: 4 stars (as beautiful as it is, I still think this can be bettered in a future version).
Recitals or “Best Of Compilations”
When I was younger, I was very snobby towards Best Of or “Highlight” versions of operas, I always wanted to get the full opera. With operas of the classical period, I’m still that way, however, for baroque opera, that are usually very long, have rather complex and/or weird stories I must admit I don’t always have the patience for 3h plus of Opera seria. Luckily you’ll find the most popular (and outstandingly beautiful) arias of Händel et al quite often on recital albums by individual soloist.
Let me recommend two very beautiful ones here that feature Lascia, by Patricia Petibon and Simone Kermes, respectively called Rosso and Drama, and both highly recommended. They offer an excellent entry into baroque opera.
And finally, let me mention another beautiful version of Lascia, in a Jazz version this time, by the amazing trumpet player Paolo Fresu, on the album Kosmopolites:
Hogwood’s Rinaldo: here (Qobuz)
Patricia Petitbon: Rosso: here (Qobuz)
Simone Kermes: here (Qobuz)
Paolo Fresu: Kosmopolites: here (Qobuz)