With Antonio Caldara’s 'Morte e sepoltura di Christo', released on Glossa just after a new album devoted to Vivaldi’s late violin concertos, Fabio Biondi returns to the Italian oratorio, another of his specialities. The Venetians Caldara and Vivaldi may have been contemporaries but their career paths led them in different directions, and Caldara was to spend much time working in Mantua and Rome before securing the position of vice-Kapellmeister for the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI in Vienna.
Fabio Biondi (born March 15, 1961) is an Italian violinist and conductor.
Born in Palermo, Sicily, Biondi began his international career at the age of 12 playing a concerto with the RAI Symphony Orchestra. When he was 16, he performed Bach's violin concertos at the Musikverein in Vienna. Since then, he has performed with a number of baroque ensembles including La Capella Reial, Musica Antiqua Wien, Seminario Musicale, La Chapelle Royale and Les Musiciens du Louvre. In 1989 Biondi founded Europa Galante, an Italian ensemble specializing in baroque music, that he directs.
One tends to associate the virtuoso violin repertoire with the 19th century, but in their own way these five sonatas, written between 1714 and 1743, offer an equally dazzling display of speed, facility, bow control and tonal variety. No wonder: the composers were among the foremost violin virtuosos of their time, as well as tireless innovators of technique and style; several even wrote treatises on violin playing. The earliest, and least familiar, is Michele Mascitti, a Neapolitan who moved to Paris when he was 30… –Edith Eisler
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.
Jephtha (1752) was George Frederick Handel's final oratorio, and it was composed during a period of incipient blindness and declining health. Yet the composer's artistic powers were undiminished in this dramatization of the Biblical story, for the arias and choruses are as memorable as any from Handel's earlier works in the genre, including Messiah and Israel in Egypt.
The revival of the viola d'amore as an instrument distinct and separate from the viola is a well-established phenomenon, advanced by composers and performers alike at least since the 1920s. That doesn't mean, however, that there are a great many players of the viola d'amore around, nor are there nearly as many viola d'amores in existence to play, at least in a quantity relative to the number of violas that are out there.
There is no complete surviving score for Vivaldi's Ercole su'l Termodonte, but there is enough existing material that modern scholars have been able to reconstruct it primarily by making new settings of the lost recitatives. The first production of the opera since Vivaldi's time was at Spoleto in 2006 in a version by Alessandro Ciccolini, which was released as a DVD. Conductor Fabio Biondi made a version introduced in Venice in 2007, which is recorded on this 2010 Virgin CD. Biondi's recording has the advantage of two international superstars in the leading roles, tenor Rolando Villazón and mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, and soprano Diana Damrau is nearly in their league. Villazón's earthy voice is usually associated with 19th century and verismo Italian repertoire, but he has an acute sensitivity to Baroque vocal style, and his robust, almost baritonal tenor is entirely appropriate for a larger-than-life character like Hercules. DiDonato excels as Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, singing with her characteristic brilliance and warm humanity.