Almost a year has passed. Time to bump this thread. I have just got hold of a new issue....by a dead singer. Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson. A singer I would even listen to if she had recorded the phone directory. This disc is issued under the Avie label. It consists of arias by Bach and Handel performed by Hunt Lieberson and for the most part conducted by her long time collaborator, Craig Smith. He also died young. The indication is that there may well be more from this source, I hope so. The performances are live from The Emmanuel Archive 1992 to 1999.
The actual sound is immediate and rich, the voice three dimensional. This is the kind of balance I like.
Initially I did wonder just what they were playing at. The first aria is Bach 'Kommnt angelochten Sunder' from Cantata BWV30. It is a lilting dance, basically a call to the Faithful to get on with it! Here we open with a dirge, it sounds disastrous; almost half the normal speed. Then the singer enters and the approach is redeemed. She turns it into a meditation, depth, tenderness, a beauty that is about more than pure sound, it conveys things in itself. Suddenly the slow speed makes sense. However, very few singers could bring it off.
Nothing else is taken at an eccentric speed. After that benediction, we get all the major arias for Dejanira from Handel's Hercules. Here the voice shines and gleams. She goes through the gamut from love to anger, despair and madness. I have the Minkowsky set with Von Otter. He really charges the piece with drama to the hilt. The approach here is more measured and the singer is the focus for the drama. It is an inspired string of Arias and she does them justice.
Finally Back to Bach. One substantial aria from Cantata No 33. almost 11 minutes, yet concentration never flags. An aria of comfort. She uses very rich tone, the music almost sounds extemporised and with Bach, I regard that as the most successful possible kind of performance. In its length it unrolls before you as though it was just being created, long breathed, hypnotic and a fitting piece to leave us with. The music hangs in the air, the pizzicato echos in the head long after.