Concerto Köln, René Jacobs, Handel: Giulio Cesare

James Jolly

By James Jolly

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
A Gramophone Award-winning triumph from René Jacobs and co.

This was one of René Jacobs'early triumphs in the recording studio — proof he could make the transition from a fine countertenor to a conductor of imagination and flair. Handel's opera, focussing on the relationship between Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, prompted some of his greatest operatic music. Jennifer Larmore is a tremendous Caesar, her voice full of youthful firmness and in beautiful condition: just listen to her in the famous hunting aria "Va tacito." Barbara Schlick is a fine Cleopatra of very impressive vocal agility. Derek Lee Ragin, as the oily villain, Ptolemy, is in excellent form — you can sense that he wanted to impress his countertenor-conductor with his characterisation, and he succeeds marvelously. But Jacobs remains the star here, shaping the big ceremonial numbers with a real sense of occasion but also giving the tender, intimate moments (and there are many) a genuine sense of poetry. No wonder it took a Gramophone Award shortly after its release.