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Arias for Senesino
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)

Bel contento gia gode quest’alma [5:53]
Pompe vane di morte! [2:13]
Dove sei, amato bene? [4:58]
Tomaso ALBINONI (1671-1751)

Stelle ingrate [3:15]
Selvagge amenita [3:47]
Antonio LOTTI (1667-1740)

Discordi pensieri [6:52]
Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725)

Del ciel sui giri [5:07]
Antonio LOTTI (1667-1740)

Fosti caro agi’occhi miei [5:10]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)

Dall’ondoso periglio [1:42]
Aure, deh, per pieta [5:31]
Al lampo dell’armi [2:52]
Cara sposa [9:21]
Nicola PORPORA (1686-1768)

Va per la vene il sangue [8:06]
Andreas Scholl, counter-tenor
Choir of the King’s Consort
Academia Bizantina/Ottavio Dantone
rec. Auditorium di Milano, 25-26, 28-30 June 2004. DDD
DECCA 475 6569 [65:31]

I have been an admirer of Andreas Scholl’s ever since the release of his Way-Faring Stranger disc. It was one of the first discs I was ever moved to review, and a concept which I had scoffed at until being utterly transfixed, spell-bound, by a pre-release "taster" played on Radio 3. Over the years, Scholl has produced a number of compilation-type discs, all of them of the highest quality, with carefully-chosen works.

This is a collection of arias written for the famous eighteenth century castrato, Francesco Bernardi, who went under the name of Senesino – "The Sienese", after the city of his birth. After making his debut - as far as we know - in Venice, Senesino swiftly rose to great prominence. He was a skilled actor as a singer of the finest calibre and was engaged by the court opera at Dresden. He was sacked for his refusal to sing a particular aria and for ripping up a fellow musician’s music. Handel promptly snapped him up for the Royal Academy of Music, Handel’s then newly-formed opera company in London. Handel wrote and revised a number of roles specifically for Senesino – as had other major composers, including Albinoni and Scarlatti – not least Giulio Cesare and Rodelinda. After one resolved estrangement he finally drove Senesino away by violating the notoriously arrogant singer’s vanity with Orlando’s mad scene!

This is a wonderful collection, and well performed. Scholl has a very pure, piercing voice, full of dramatic intensity and lyrical beauty, with great dynamic control and fantastic expression. His range from light and delicate, as in Lotti’s Discordi pensieri, to powerful in Handel’s absolute gem, Dove sei, amato bene (listen to the resonant power and dramaticism in the word "Vieni"!), and his supple, nimble athleticism in Albinoni’s Stelle ingrate and Handel’s Cara sposa demonstrate his proficient skill and vocal agility as well as giving us an idea of Senesino’s tremendous talent. Scholl captures the jubilation of Scarlatti’s Del ciel sui giri brilliantly. Despair and wild grief permeate Pompe vane di morte and Dove sei, amato bene, from Handel’s Bertarido – full of controlled but nonetheless passionate emotion, with Scholl never over-doing it.

The Accademia Bizantina, conducted by Ottavio Dantone, provides excellent and sympathetic, but unobtrusive accompaniment. I highly recommend this disc to all lovers of baroque opera, and to all fellow devotees of the beautiful counter-tenor voice!

Em Marshall



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