The debut recital disc by the Russian soprano Julia Lezhneva two years ago, a collection of Baroque selections aptly titled “Alleluia,” suggested the arrival of a formidable vocal talent, one blessed with a distinctive combination of technical brilliance, tonal elegance and expressive directness. This follow-up release, though perhaps not quite as dazzling, confirms that impression. This time around, Lezhneva has concentrated her focus on Handel, specifically the music from his early sojourn in Italy. The selections are drawn from oratorios and such early operas as “Rodrigo” and “Agrippina” — music that shows the composer creating the expressive lexicon that would shape his mature theatrical masterpieces — and it’s wonderfully congenial to Lezhneva’s bright, fervid sound and ferocious mastery of coloratura. There’s even an enchanting bit of sacred music, a setting of “Salve Regina,” that combines reverence with theatrical panache. Giovanni Antonini and the period ensemble Il Giardino Armonico provide vivacious accompaniments.
JULIA LEZHNEVA HANDEL ARIAS IL GIARDINO ARMONICO; GIOVANNI ANTONINI DECCA $18.99