Seventeenth-century Italy saw the rise to prominence of the violin and the emergence of a music literature specifically designed both to exploit and extend its characteristic to the utmost. All the composers represented here distinguished themselves for the breathtaking virtuosity, the inventiveness and sometimes also the delightful eccentricity they displayed in their strikingly original works.
Olga Tverskaya's fortepiano is a gorgeous instrument, with a rich, wooly bass, a velvety middle, and a ringing top. Fabio Biondi plays with romantic sensibility, fabulous technique, and, in the big Sonata in A major, depth and drama. This music can sound sticky sweet; here it's full of life and dynamism, with flowing lyricism that's irresistible.
"Poro, re dell'Indie" (HWV 28) is an opera seria in three acts by George Frideric Handel. The Italian-language libretto was adapted from Alessandro nell'Indie by Metastasio, and based on Alexander the Great's encounter with King Porus in 326 BC. The libretto had already been set to music by Leonardo Vinci in 1729 and by Antonio Vivaldi among others and was used as the text for more than sixty operas throughout the 18th century. The opera was first given at the King's Theatre in London on 2 February 1731 and on 15 further occasions. A run of 16 performances was a mark of success for the time as is the fact that the work was revived on 23 December 1731, and again in a revised form on 8 December 1736. It was also given in Hamburg and Brunswick.
Handel's Imeneo, an opera almost contemporaneous with Messiah, has received few performances ever since Messiah librettist Charles Jennens slammed it as "the worst of all Handel's compositions" while still allowing that it contained some good tunes. The work exists in two versions; Handel attempted to rescue the opera that bombed in its London premiere by cutting arias and inserting new material, some of it borrowed from other works. It is this second version, premiered in Dublin, that is recorded here. Conductor Fabio Biondi extols it in his notes, but the earlier version also has its virtues, including a more coherent plotline involving the Greek maiden Rosmene, who has to pick either her true love Tirinto or her rescuer Imeneo (Hymen, the god of love on whose story the libretto is based).
Mario Biondi on a hunt for new talent introduces the "talent album: a unique project from the beloved artist who gives space in his new album for other artists, most of them just emerging. "Due" is a double cd of 20 songs (13 of them unreleased until now) featuring collaborations between the catanese crooner and twenty artists of the finest new jazz and talent from Italy and the world.