Baroque Duet – Kathleen Battle and Wynton Marsalis


Nobody would deny the honeyed beauty of Kathleen Battle’s pearly soprano, nor her felicity and ease of movement in fast coloratura. Nor would they deny Wynton Marsalis’s stupendous trumpet virtuosity. One would therefore assume that putting the two together would give you a winner. Given that the programme is a welcome mixture of the well-known and the unfamiliar, you might also expect a nicely varied recital.

Well that doesn’t really happen here, I’m afraid. Quite aside from the fact that there is absolutely nothing authentic about the performances (the orchestra made up of modern instruments and Marsalis playing on a valve trumpet), there is a sameness of approach and a preponderance of fast arias that tends to the monotonous, and in the rare slower pieces, the music starts to sound more like Rachmaninov’s Vocalise than anything authentically baroque.

As background music, it is undemanding and pleasant to listen to, especially if you have a sweet tooth, but, aside from showing off the prowess of its two stars, it doesn’t really add up to a satisfactory whole.