Countertenor performances of 19th century opera are a historical and, ultimately, true novelty. This said, for those who love the sound of the countertenor voice and want to give it a try, there are several factors that recommend this release by countertenor Franco Fagioli, with the small orchestra Armonia Atenea under George Petrou. First is that castrati were still around in Rossini's time, although on the decline, and the composer was reportedly intrigued by their voices. Second, Fagioli, unlike the vast majority of other countertenors, studied bel canto singing rather than Baroque repertory exclusively, and a certain distance present in the work of other countertenors is absent here. And third, and most important, is Fagioli's voice itself. Of the countertenors active today, he's the one with the range, the power, the attitude to make you suspend disbelief and think for a moment that you're actually listening to a castrato. He enters into the various Rossini roles represented on this recording, several of which were mezzo-soprano "pants" roles; this adds to the layers of identity-switching happening, and the parts hit Fagioli's vocal sweet spot. A bonus is that several of these are from Rossini opere serie that are little played or recorded.
"Die Sängerinnen und Sänger haben allesamt sehr intensiv an den Koloraturen gearbeitet und sind den teils horrenden Schwierigkeiten der Arien gut gewachsen … Außerdem sind die Rezitative mit hohem Konversationstempo und fantasievoller Generalbass-Improvisation umgesetzt." ~FonoForum
This is a gem of a CD. It's a well-chosen, well-performed and well-presented anthology of mid-Baroque German sacred cantatas. Bass Peter Kooij and the seven-person L'Armonia Sonora are directed by gambist Mieneke Van der Velden. They have a close and warm affinity not only with one another, but also for the music; it's music as varied as it's beautiful. Its rich, sustained sonorities will stay with you long after you have finished the uplifting experience of listening to the CD. Released on the enterprising Ramée label De profundis clamavi comprises seven sumptuous examples of the music written in the north German Länder in the period after the Thirty Years War. It's music which not so much 'reflects' that profound conflict, as is 'affected' by it – weighed down with detached regret and unselfconscious resignation.
An heroic story, based on historical events occurring on the Germanic fringes of the Roman Empire, Arminio is now being revived in a new and ravishing production by Parnassus Arts under their artistic director Max Emanuel Cencic: a combination with an unequalled track record in Handelian opera seria, as witnessed by their multiple-award-winning staging and recording of Alessandro (from 2012 to date). Countertenor Max Emanuel Cencic takes the title role of Arminio, surrounded by a superb cast featuring Layla Claire (Tusnelda), Ruxandra Donose (Ramise), Vince Yi (Sigismondo), Juan Sancho (Varo), Xavier Sabata (Tullio) and Petros Magoulas (Segeste). Joined by the dynamic Armonia Atenea under the baton of George Petrou, Arminio is sure to join a fast-growing collection of acclaimed Baroque opera recordings. In recent years Max Emanuel Cencic has become recognised as one of the world’s supreme countertenors: “Mr. Cencic is blessed with the finest countertenor voice of our day” (Opernwelt)
…I Solisti Italiani continues, both spiritually and sonically, where the original Virtuosi di Roma left off, with creamy, expert, middle-of-the-road performances of Baroque and Classical period music, and occasional 20th-century pieces as well. The ensemble is small - only 12 players, without conductor - but the sound is full and caloric, the playing dapper and disciplined.
As part of a major partnership with Parnassus Arts (which previously brought Handel’s Alessandro and ROKOKO, the January 2014 solo album from Max Emanuel Cencic), this is the first album from the Athens-based orchestra and their conductor.
The four concerti in The Four Seasons of Antonio Vivaldi have probably earned the distinction of being the most frequently recorded classical works in the digital era. Originally published as part of a set of 12 concerti as Vivaldi's Opus 8, the other eight concerti also get some attention, particularly La tempesta di mare, but the set as a whole is comparatively seldom recorded. In Europa Galante's Virgin Classics release, Vivaldi: Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione, violinist Fabio Biondi, who has recorded The Four Seasons at least once before for Opus 111, leads his expert ensemble in the whole of the Opus 8 set. The 12 concerti fit comfortably onto two CDs, with some reshuffling of the pieces into a different order than that assembled by Vivaldi, though not through splitting up the "big four."