Related Reviews
musica Dei donum
'...you can hardly go wrong with this performance...Handel aficionados certainly won’t hesitate to add this disc to their collection.'
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Opera News
'This performance’s two singers exhibit excellent stylistic instincts and an admirable musical rapport.'
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American Record Guide
'I especially like the sunny, smiley sound of the two period oboes.'
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Hannoveraner Tageblatt
„Die von der Solooboe begleitete Arie „Felicissima quest' alma" (Track 13) ist ein echter Ohrwurm, den man immer wieder hören möchte." / 'The aria 'Felicissima quest 'alma', accompanied by the solo oboe, is a real earworm that you want to hear again and again'.
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BBC Music Magazine
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Andrew Benson-Wilson
'An impressive recording...their playing in consort and solo is outstanding.'
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MusicWeb International
'I find Mhairi Lawson ideal as Dafne...Ensemble Marsyas are precise and sensitive and tempi appear ideally judged. The Edinburgh church in North Leith which is a beautiful classical structure, ideal for this repertoire, adds a lovely resonance especially to the instrumental work.'
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The Scotsman
'Peter Whelan an urgent, compelling director in front of his own period-instrument band...with instrumentalists dancing and swaying along to Whelan's bracing rhythms.'
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Early Music Review
5 Stars
'Mhairi Lawson, as Dafne, and Callum Thorpe, as Apollo, are in complete command of all this glorious music, and bring it to life with enormous dramatic energy, ably partnered by Ensemble Marsyas’s superb playing...'
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The Guardian
4 Stars
'...it's the instrumental playing that stands out: pert, shapely, spicy, full of drama.'
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Crescendo
« La vaste inspiration haendelienne souffle à chaque instant. »
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Classical CD Choice
'... it's hard to imagine a more committed and sympathetic reading of the work than the one presented here.'
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Ensemble Marsyas - Handel: Apollo e Dafne - Gramophone


01 October 2016
Gramophone
Alexandra Coghlan

A quick glance down the list of performers tells you all you need to know about Ensemble Marsyas. From leader Cecilia Bernadini and Alec Frank-Gemill on horn to first oboe Katharina Spreckelsen and Thomas Dunford on theorbo, this is an orchestra of soloists - many of them section leaders of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Together with director Peter Whelan they make showstoppers of the ‘warm-up' instrumental numbers on their latest recording of Handel's Apollo e Dafne.

Running to nearly 25 minutes, the Overture to Il pastor fido (substituted here for the cantata's own, now lost) is an unusually extended affair - a standalone suite in all but name. The variety of its six movements offers a lyrical aria for oboe, some fine bassoon sallies in the Allegro (gleefully raw and sonorous here) and a flash of expressive solo harpsichord in the second Largo, all stylishly rendered by the ensemble. Even better are the two arias for wind ensemble (HWV410 and 411) that follow - the first an ingenious and highly coloured reimagining of material better known as ‘Sono i colpi della sorte' from Rodelinda, in which pairs of horns and oboes lead a stately march, and the second pitting the two pairs of instruments against one another in amiable and occasionally raucous rivalry.

The cantata Apollo e Dafne concentrates Handel's melodic invention into a swift retelling of the Greek legend of a lustful god's pursuit of an innocent nymph. One of Handel's most-recorded works, notable previous pairings in this vocal two-hander have included Michael Chance and Nancy Argenta, Thomas Hampson and Roberta Alexander and - most recently - the Gramophone Award-winning combination of Roberta Invernizzi and Thomas Bauer. Here Callum Thorpe - that rarest and most exciting of things, a genuine young bass rather than a baritone with low notes - is a little outsung by Mhairi Lawson's Dafne, a nymph whose agile coloratura and full-voiced recitative does little to suggest a helpless victim. Her exquisite entrance aria, ‘Felicissima quest'alma', barely touches the ground, so lightly spun are its phrases. If Thorpe and Lawson can't quite match Bauer and Invernizzi for vocal poise and dramatic immediacy, this is still a recording worth buying for the colour and quality of the orchestral playing.


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