Emma Bell - Handel - The Sunday Telegraph

In an age of slimline, flutey Baroque sopranos, Emma Bell's rich, vibrant timbre and steely top notes may not be a purist's dream. Those who place a premium on limpid elegance should probably look elsewhere. But Bell's earliest successes were in Handel. And in each of the 11 arias here she does have the precious gift of creating a vivid, flesh-and-blood sound, whether in Rodelinda's two piercing laments or the sorceress Melissa's fire-snorting invocation to the Furies in Amadigi, with its jousting trumpet and oboe solos. The soprano's ferocious attack and blistering coloratura in Ginevra's "Orrida a gl'occhi miei" (Ariodante) serve notice that here is a Scottish princess not to be trifled with. In Cleopatra's famous "Piangerò" (Giulio Cesare), Bell flares from brooding, almost masochistic sorrow to vengeful frenzy. Other highlights include two magnificent contrasting arias for Polinessa (Radamisto), the first grandly tragic, the second an explosion of pent-up resentment as the heroine spits insults at her brutal, womanising husband. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra, well versed in 18th-century style, play with gusto, while the superb trumpet and woodwind soloists deserve their own billing.

The Sunday Telegraph
11 September 2005