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Ensemble Marsyas - Handel: Apollo e Dafne - American Record Guide

06 January 2017
American Record Guide
David Barker

Handel’s extended (over 40 minutes) cantata portrays Apollo’s failed attempt to seduce the nymph Daphne, ending in her transformation into the laurel tree, whose leaves thereafter became his symbol. The score lacks a prelude or any culminating conclusion, but its succession of recitatives and arias does capture the characters and their shifting emotions. There have been a goodly number of recordings made of the piece over the years. The two singers certainly deliver their roles adequately in vocal terms, Lawson in particular. The real star here is the Ensemble Marsyas. There are 20 period-instrument players, including Wheylan himself on bassoon (which is allowed a nice solo at one point). These players shine in the exclusively instrumental material that here precedes the cantata as “filler”. The major item of that kind is the unusually large (22 minutes) overture to Handel’s early opera Il Pastor Fido—some of whose six movements the composer reused elsewhere. There also two brief Arias for winds (with some injudicious drumming added). The tone of the Marsyas players bends towards understatement rather than insensitive energy. I especially like the sunny, smiley sound of the two period oboes. Unusually probing booklet notes by David Vickers, with full text and translation. 
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Handel: Apollo e DafneHandel: Apollo e Dafne