Handel’s Neun Deutsche Arien (Nine German Arias) were composed around 1725, some sixteen years after his arrival in London. In sharp contrast to his compositions at the time (which included the operas Tamerlano, Rodelinda, and Alessandro), these nine short arias, all but one in da capo form, are intimate small-scale pieces for a solo singer, a solo instrument and continuo bass.
The texts are extracts from Barthold Heinrich Brockes’ collection of poems Irdisches vergnügen in Gott (Earthly Delight in God) published in 1721. They hark back to Handel’s early days in Hamburg when Pietism was an importand aspect of Lutheran thinking. Clearly intended for domestic rather than concert performance, the pieces seem to reflect a type of home music making combined with personal devotion.
The singer is soprano Penelope Appleyard. Her sensitive and expressive singing is ideal for the repertoire, imparting an entirely appropriate air of gentle innocence to the melodic lines. Her persistent, but very slight, vibrato should not upset the HIP purists, who should appreciate the purity of her voice.
She is accompanied by the instrumentliats of Ensemble Florisma, a group founded in 2011 by early music students at the Birmingham Conservatoire. The continuo group is William Drakett, harpsichord/organ, Aileen Henry, triple harp, Hetti Price, cello/viola da gamba with instrumental solos from from Penelope Spencer, violin, Gail Hennessy, oboe and Michelle Holloway, recorder. The choice of solo instrument and continuo forces is not indicated in the score, but the choices made in this recording are very effective, nicely reflectibng the tone and mood of the text and the music of each aria.