HANDEL 'Enemies in Love'
One wonders how many Juilliard graduates are breakdancing acrobats with a sideline in modelling. Nevertheless, it is the nuanced singing of countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński that is fully to the fore in a recital partnered with mezzo-soprano Natalia Kawaπek and their Polish compatriots Il Giardino d’Amore. The soloists perform four arias each and join together in four duets. The closely miked small band tend to overplay in order to sound bigger than they really are and the theatrical depth and textures of Handel’s orchestral writing are limited in their realisation, although concertmaster Stefan Plewniak directs from the violin with a reliable sense of pace and character.
Kawałek’s exaggerated volatility, thrusting low notes and sneering vowels mean that Dorinda’s ‘Amor è qual vento’ (Orlando) is bitterly sarcastic rather than vivaciously witty. Her energy is more at home as the sorceress Armida, although the inclusion of William Babell’s absurd harpsichord variations within ‘Vo far guerra’ is never a good idea – notwithstanding the dexterous playing of Ewa Mrowca. On the other hand, Orliński’s intuitive phrasing, sweet precision and sense of dramatic moods are consistently appealing: Arsace’s tumultuous ‘Furibondo spira il vento’ (Partenope) features pinpoint coloratura and satisfying ornamentation, the defiant Tolomeo’s drinking of poison (‘Stille amare’) showcases an apt gift for plaintive melodic simplicity (with the strings effectively illustrating the hero’s consciousness ebbing away), and Bertarido’s ‘Dove sei, amato bene’ is beautifully judged.
The contrasting duets show different aspects of Handel’s art – the pick of the bunch is the chamber intimacy of Arcane and Clizia’s sorrowful farewell (Teseo). The booklet note often gets thumbnail explanations of dramatic contexts badly wrong, and aspects of the performances are patchy, but Orliński is a talent to watch out for.