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Amarilli vezzosa 'Il duello amoroso', HWV82
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'Handel: Il Duello Amoroso' (CDH55136)
Handel: Il Duello Amoroso
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55136  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
No 01: Sonata
Track 27 on CDH55136 [2'46] Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
No 02. Recitative: Amarilli vezzosa (Daliso)
No 03. Aria: Pietoso sguardo (Daliso)
No 04. Recitative: Dunque tanto s'avanza (Amarilli)
No 05. Aria: Piacer che non si dona (Amarilli)
No 06. Recitative: Sì, sì, crudel (Daliso/Amarilli)
No 07. Aria: Quel nocchiero che mira le sponde (Amarilli)
No 08. Recitative: Amarilli, Amarilli (Daliso)
No 09. Aria: E vanita d'un cor (Daliso)
No 10. Recitative: Or su, già che ostinato (Amarilli/Daliso)
No 11. Duet: Sì, sì, lasciami ingrata (Daliso/Amarilli)

Amarilli vezzosa 'Il duello amoroso', HWV82
Amarilli vezzosa (which also has the title ‘Il duello amoroso’) was composed and performed near the end of August 1708. It is one of a number of cantatas which survive only in manuscripts in the Santini collection at Münster and which are still unpublished. The singers are soprano and alto (it is Handel’s only cantata for this combination) and the accompaniments are for a small group of first and second violins with continuo. The ‘amorous duel’ is an encounter between the shepherd Daliso (the alto) and the shepherdess Amaryllis: it seems she had once pledged her love to him but has now changed her mind. They meet in a wood. Daliso, resentful at being rejected, decides to use force to gain his desire. Amaryllis warns him that no lasting pleasure can be obtained from an act of violence. When Daliso ignores the warning and still seems determined on his object, Amaryllis produces a dagger and symbolically demands that he satisfies himself by plunging it into her heart. At this piece of melodrama Daliso’s will promptly collapses and he begs forgiveness. He gets none: Amaryllis mockingly hints that she would have relented if he had been a little bolder and, while Daliso rebukes her for her heartlessness, goes on to say that his love could never set her on fire.

Though neither character emerges very sympathetically, the music is always engaging. The opening sonata has a brilliant first movement which perhaps represents Daliso chasing Amaryllis through the wood. In the first aria, for Daliso, the main tune in minuet rhythm is extended by a leaping figure in the violins (hinting at the character’s impetuousness?), later taken up in the vocal line. The easygoing tune of Amaryllis’s first aria expresses her carefree confidence: Handel was especially fond of it and used it in several later works, notably Agrippina (‘Col peso del tuo amor’) and Flavio (‘Ricordati, mio ben’).

Amaryllis’s next aria is an exciting piece: the text speaks of a sailor ceasing to fear the waves of the sea, but the rushing semiquavers in both violins and voice seem to depict him being driven before the tempest. In the last aria Daliso’s hopelessness is conveyed in the broken-up melodic line of a sad siciliana, given extra pathos at the cadences by the use of the ‘Neapolitan sixth’ (A flat in the key of G minor), a favourite device in the music of Handel’s Italian period. The closing duet in A minor (later to be adapted by Handel in the finale of Poro) is a strict minuet, studiously neutral in tone.

from notes by Anthony Hicks © 1985

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