Handel’s Rodelinda contains some of his most ravishing music and nothing more beautiful that the duet that closes the Second Act – Io t’abbracio – here sung by Sarah Connolly and Rosemary Joshua.
Written in 1719, for me this is a greater “fare thee well” duet than the one composed by Handel for the closing of the second act of Giulio Cesare.
It’s the utter simplicity of this duet that makes is so effective. The dropping vocal phrases, juxtaposed and contrasted with an independent instrumental line – which with any other composer would just be textbook Doctrine of Affections technique – are here molded by Handel into something wonderful and poignant. And in the middle section, Handel reverses the direction of the vocal line, again a simple textbook technique, but done with such style.
The music is further heightened by the impassioned performance of Mesdames Connolly and Joshua – possibly two of the greatest Handel interpreters on the stage today. And what makes this a great performance is their delicate, intelligent and emotionally sensitive embellishments in the returning da capo.
And this duet is only one small part of an excellent album of opera and oratorio duets with the bright and alert accompaniment of The English Concert conducted by the ever brilliant Harry Bickett.