Our September Recording of the Month is a buoyant new account of Handel’s Serse from Harry Bicket and The English Concert, starring mezzo-soprano Emily D’Angelo who opens the show with the famous Ombra mai fu (Linn CKD709).

The romantic intrigues of the court of the despotic Persian King Xerxes include plenty of comic episodes, albeit with a tyrant at its heart. “Handel’s music is sublime, with arias, duets, choruses and orchestral music negotiating the opera seria and buffa elements with imagination, lightness and panache,” writes Will Yeoman. The cast, which includes Lucy Crowe, Mary Bevan, Paula Murrihy, Daniela Mack, Neal Davies and William Dazeley, is equally sublime.

“D’Angelo’s ode to a plane tree is the curtain-raiser it should be, tonally rich, focused and played completely straight. There’s something grounding about it, too, despite its ethereal qualities . . . Here, and elsewhere, Bicket and The English Concert play with a technical and stylistic command that is above reproach. Lithe strings, plangent winds and a punchy continuo section more than make up for theatrical elements invisible to a home listener.”

Among this month’s orchestral releases, The Philadelphia Orchestra’s account of Rachmaninov’s Symphonies Nos. 2 and 3 is my personal favourite (DG 4864775)....