Joyce DiDonato’s latest CD In War and Peace is a compilation of baroque arias on the theme of war and peace, apparently prompted by the terrorist attacks in Paris. The arias are divided, apparently, into the two categories and while I get that Handel’s Scenes of Sorrow, Scenes of Woe from Jeptha is “war” I’m not at all sure how Purcell’s Dido’s Lament finds itself on that side of the balance sheet. No matter there’s lots of Handel; very well done, and quite a bit of Purcell, some of it quite little known; even better, with some Leo, Jommelli and Monteverdi along the way.
It’s very Joyce. She has such a distinctive voice. In the warlike numbers the characteristic attack at the beginning of the phrase is there. The diction is superb almost to the point where the English sounds like it might not be her native tongue rather in the manner of those Germans one hears on Radio 3 who speak English better than I do. There’s a pretty amazing palette of colours and when she wants just to sound beautiful she does. It’s a very complete performance. Accompaniment is by Il Pomo d’Oro with Maxim Emelyanychev directing from the harpsichord. It’s all very apt and skilful. The recording, made in the Gustav Mahler Hall, Kulturzentrum Grand Hotel Toblach is very clear and bright and suits the music. The documentation shows how personal a project this was for the singer and is well worth a read.