Barokksolistene / Bjarte Eike / Tuva Semmingsen LONDON CALLING!
In spite of a misleading title, borrowed from the Clash's iconic 1979 album, and cover artwork possibly suggesting music of the '60s mod scene, London Calling!: Handel and His Contemporaries seems inappropriately packaged for what it really is, a sampler of Baroque opera arias and concertos, mostly Italian music that was popular in early 18th century London. This terrific-sounding hybrid SACD by the Norwegian period ensemble Barokksolistene should stand on its own as a delightful survey of vocal and instrumental music by George Frederick Handel, Arcangelo Corelli, Francesco Maria Veracini, and Francesco Geminiani, all well-known composers who don't deserve (and likely won't benefit from) the album's condescending tagline, "It's just old pop music." The vibrant singing by mezzo-soprano Tuva Semmingsen is an attractive feature of this 2012 release, and her flexibility and rich tone are well-suited to Handel's florid settings of Italian and English texts. The virtuoso ensemble, dominated by strings, plays without vibrato and yields the shining sonorities of a Baroque orchestra, and the inclusion of trumpet, oboe, theorbo, and harpsichord adds spice to their polished blend. Under the leadership of violinist Bjarte Eike, the performances are carefully executed and appropriately interpreted, so fans of early music will find much to enjoy here, notwithstanding the misguided attempt to market this collection to a pop audience. (Blair Sanderson)