Apollo E Dafne; the Alchemist. (CDs)

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Pasichnyk, Pomakov. European Union Baroque Orchestra, Roy Goodman, conductor. Naxos 8.555712. ***

Handel's secular cantata Apollo e Dafne, an early work penned when the composer was in his mid-20s, remains perhaps his most popular in that now archaic Italianate genre. It tells the brief and strange tale of the god Apollo as he woos the lovely Dafne. But the target of his love, cautious and unimpressed, claims she would rather die than sacrifice her honor. Finally, unable to spurn his advances, she turns herself into a laurel tree and Apollo sings a final, pathetic aria, mourning his loss: "Dear laurel, with my tears I shall water your green leaves."

He of the unrequited love is young Canadian bass Robert Pomakov, who is heard immediately after the work's sprightly overture in an expressive recitative, "La terra e liberata," and its ensuing aria, "Pende il ben dell'universo." (The original overture has not survived and is replaced in this recording by the opening movement of Handel's Concerto Grosso Op. 3 No. 1.) Pomakov sounds impressive throughout; his big, booming, lyrical bass a standout in most of his various recitatives and arias. One sad exception is the rapid aria "Spezza l'arco e getta l'armi," which is spoiled by some stumbling in the difficult runs. …


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