This disc, originally recorded in 1997, has been issued in various forms; the current Arie Antiche (Antique Arias) title is better than the British release that bestowed upon the program the wimpy title of Dmitri Hvorostovsky Sings Classical Arias. Most of the arias are Baroque, not Classical, and a few come from early in the Baroque era territory on which few mainstream operatic vocalists have dared to tread.
The ensemble LA GIOIA ARMONICA was founded by Austrian dulcimer-player Margit Übellacker and German organist and singer Jürgen Banholzer. One of the ensemble's objectives is to explore the baroque repertoire for dulcimer, in particular in connection with the legendary pantaleon. The size of the group varies from dulcimer-organ duet to large chamber-music settings. Th e musicians are all specialised in historically-informed performance practices, and combine broad experience drawn from their involvement in various international ensembles. La Gioia Armonica's debut CD – Cantate, Sonate ed Arie, dedicated to music of Antonio Caldara – was also released by Ramée, and gained various awards, among which the Pizzicato Supersonic Award, Goldberg 5 Stars, and the Prelude Classical Award 2006 for best debut CD. Since then, the ensemble has been invited to perform in Germany and abroad, including at the Halle Händelfestspiele, the Dordrecht Bach Festival, the Middle-Germany Heinrich Schütz Days, the Bottrop Organ Plus Festival, and the Bad Homburg Fugato organ festival.
Sara Mingardo has been creating quite a stir in baroque circles but this is my first chance to catch up with her. In one sense she may be considered a "typical" baroque singer, in the sense that she uses a completely straight vocal production, from which vibrato has been rigorously excluded, and cultivates a somewhat plangent, nasal sound, with the result that a casual listener might suppose he was listening to a counter-tenor.