Countertenor Andreas Scholl's new CD is devoted to little-known, late-17th- and early-18th-century cantatas whose subject matter is Arcadia, a real region in Greece, but more frequently evoked as an idyllic place filled with innocent, simple shepherds and shepherdesses. Scholl employs a more operatic tone and attitude than we're accustomed to from countertenors. Not only does he use vibrato and "lean" on the voice, but he dips down, as in the final moments of a cantata by Marcello, into a deep, dark baritone range. The effect is dramatic and apt. Elsewhere his tone is just gorgeous and always expressive, he pays attention to the text of these works and captures the theatrical moment in each. The last movement of a work by Francesco Gasparini is excitingly acrobatic. The Accademia Byzantina is a remarkable "backup" group and they get to play some purely orchestral works as well. This disc is a knockout; enjoy it.–Robert Levine
The monumental Vivaldi series on France's Naïve label rolls on with this gorgeous disc of somber sacred music, some of it instrumental. Part of the attraction of this series, based on a collection of Vivaldi manuscripts held at the University of Turin, is that so much of the music is unknown; the listener has the experience of seeing new masterworks unfurled at every turn. Consider the "Tunc meus fletus" aria from the opening solo motet (really more of a solo cantata) In furore iustissimae irae, RV 626, rendered here with truly tortured intensity by the dazzling French soprano Sandrine Piau.
Harmonia Mundi's release features four secular cantatas and a trio sonata Handel wrote during his sojourn in Italy during his early twenties. The cantatas range from the mini-opera Il duello amoroso or Amarilli vezzosa, which depicts a shepherd's vain courting of a resisting nymph, to solo works in which a narrator describes similar pastoral stories, most of which also end in rejection. In Il duello amoroso, soprano Hélène Guilmette joins countertenor Andreas Scholl, and their charming banter leaves the listener saddened that the shepherd's suit was so dismally unsuccessful.
The 2010 Jesi production is conscious of the complexity of Flaminio for all its seeming simplicity and cleverly exploits the suggestive milieu of the Teatro Valeria Moriconi, in particular its shape and relatively small scale. Without any attempt at realism, (the main action takes place “in a villa on the outskirts of the city of Naples, complete with hunting lodge, etc.”, but just a handful of props to symbolise the bucolic atmosphere), the production concentrates on establishing a kind of meta-theatrical relationship to this repertoire work which sets out to highlight the interweaving and overlayering of truth and fiction, passion and irony, tragedy and comedy.
"The Accademia Bizantina under conductor and keyboardist Ottavio Dantone is one of a number of young Italian historical-instrument groups that have been revolutionizing the world of Baroque instrumental music performance. (…) The fugues are fast, intense, and dramatic, with wide dynamic range gaining momentum toward a climax. Perhaps the most satisfying of all are the cello sonatas under the care of Baroque cellist Mauro Valli, you get the feeling in the slow movements that you're hearing the Baroque cello, still an acquired taste for many listeners, take on its proper sound as its bendable tones connect with highly expressive lines. An excellent release…" ~AMG
Despite the popularity of works such as The Four Seasons and La Stravaganza, many of Vivaldi’s 250 concertos for violin remain largely unknown. The new recordings of the concertos RV 187 and 281 are based on Vivaldi’s original manuscript scores and capture the thrilling spontaneity of his compositional style. The concerto RV283 also includes a previously unpublished cadenza from the notebook of Vivaldi’s protégé Anna Maria.