Streams of Pleasure (review)
Return to Streams of Pleasure (review)
Streams of Pleasure is a 15-track collection of Handel oratorio arias performed by Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin and contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux. It was released on September 27, 2011. Gauvin and Lemieux are accompanied by the orchestral ensemble Il Complesso Barocco, conducted by Alan Curtis.
Gauvin and Lemieux are gifted soloists and have, respectively, five and four arias apiece. But the album's real joy comes from their six duets, where the result seems to be greater than the simple sum of its parts. Both singers are well known in the early music community for their knack for baroque opera, and their abilities are well matched.
Lemieux has perhaps the greater challenge of the two, as most of the roles she sings on this album are actually male and were originally intended for a countertenor. In his review of the album, Ron Salemi of ArkivMusic notes that:
"(s)he sometimes gives her voice a hooded, darker sound which seems especially appropriate to the (mostly) male characters she sings. She is, however, capable of lightening her tone as well, which she effectively does for the one female character she sings, Irene from Theodora."
While the vocal ranges of a contralto and a countertenor may well overlap, there will always be differences in tone and timbre. When I first heard tracks from this album on an all-baroque internet radio station, I was actually unsure whether the person singing with the soprano was a countertenor or a contralto. Lemieux has been singled out for her tonal range, making her an excellent choice to pair with Gauvin's robust voice.
Reviewers more knowledgeable than I have commented on the selection of works included on the album. I enjoyed hearing works from some of Handel's celebrated — but lesser-known than, say, Messiah or Israel in Egypt — works. The issue with a compilation album such as this is that the works are removed from their original context, but information about the works I wasn't familiar with was a Google search away. Who could ask for more?
Highly recommended for baroque enthusiasts. While this marked the first time I'd heard some of these arias and duets, some reviewers on e-commerce sites such as Amazon said the album is worth its price even for those who own recordings of the same works by other singers.