Between Heaven and Earth

Sandrine Piau (soprano)

Accademia Bizantina

Stefano Montanari (conductor)

Naïve OP 30484Pau

reviewed by Neville Cohn

If you have not yet heard of Sandrine Piau before, I urge you to hurry to the nearest CD store to purchase a copy of this all-Handel compilation.

French-born Sandrine Piau is a sensationally fine soprano. Her singing doe not so much engage the attention as seize it in a vice-like grip. Much of the singing on this CD could fairly be described as electrifying; her singing inflames the imagination and quickens the pulse.

Listen to Disserratevi, o porte d’Averno from La Resurrezione and the brilliance with which she stamps her authority on the music. The suppleness and agility of her voice are phenomenal and she brings fearless attack and follow-through to the phrase.

Piau’s account of  With darkness deep from Theodora is given a deeply meaningful reading although the pronunciation of the English text is not always entirely convincing. An admirable ecstatic edge is brought to the singing of Rejoice greatly from Messiah.

In As steals the morn upon the night, Piau is joined by Australian-born, Paris-based  tenor Topi Lehtipuu; it’s a pleasing blend of vocal timbres.

Piau is hardly less convincing in Let the bright seraphim from Samson to which she brings immense authority and superb breath control. Luca Marzana’s trumpet obbligato is first rate, too.

There are a number of instrumental interludes of which I particularly admired the Largo from the Concerto Grosso opus 3 no 2, made memorable by Molly Walsh’s beautifully controlled oboe line. And even that most hackneyed of orchestral interludes – Arrival of the Queen of Sheba – sounds newly minted. Throughout, the accompaniments provided by Accademia Bizantina under the direction of Stefano Montanari are a model of period performance practice.

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