In addition to quips about death and taxes, one should add that
if it’s a Monday, then there must be a new Handel aria
disc out. The production line in this commodity is running at
a frightening, depression-busting rate at the moment, and it
won’t be long before my postman has his own selection
That said, this is a splendid addition to the recent ranks.
The music-making proves consistently elevated. The operatic
arias are not commonplace, and they have selected both for relative
rarity in recital disc terms and for questions of good balance.
Thus the hour long disc proves to have something for everyone
- everyone, that is, who admires the counter tenor in this repertoire
which, as the disc’s own rubric has it, was written for
the mezzo soprano voice.
Sorge nell'alma mia from Imeneo has requisite
passion, the orchestra’s whip-crack and tempestuous accenting
egging on the star singer. They have thrust and they have throb
but though the music’s driven hard, ensemble is maintained.
Cencic responds with singing of power but precision; the runs
are perfectly executed; the voice is well equalized. The voice
in Alma mia emerges from a harpsichord wash, floats and
then rises with expressive purity. For Salda quercia, inerta
balza, one of two arias essayed from Arianna in Creta,
his florid singing is technically hugely impressive, and
so too is its expressive potential; the orchestral strings similarly
sound ‘elasticated’ in their throbbing lower string
contributions, ones that add attaca and colour and rhythmic
vibrancy. Where Cencic sometimes strays is in the lower register
of his voice. He can be a little over-inclined to grandstand
the chest register, and it can sound out of scale with the rest
of his extraordinary voice, whose range is, admittedly, remarkable.
The clarion brilliance of his declamation can easily be savoured
in Se bramate d'amar chi vi sdegna from Serse where
the caesuri mirror the turbulence of the emotive state and where
he cannily leans into the last line of the B section to anticipate
the return of the A. Remarkably, given this man’s exceptional
technical accomplishment and his phenomenal range, I think I
caught him actually breathing during this aria. Grief and ache
stalk Pena tirana which is rendered with genuine pathos
and with a plangently shadowing wind line. The horns flare in
Qual leon che fere irato and rhythms are tightly etched.
Maybe - just maybe - the histrionics sound a touch manufactured
here; I wasn’t wholly convinced, but there’s no
gainsaying the musicianship. Non tardate Fauni ancora
from Parnasso in festa is taken at a flowing tempo -
I’m not sure I’ve ever heard it faster in fact.
But for sheer virtuosity one can bask in Agrippina’s
Come nube, che fugge dal vento which, with its reminders
of Rodelinda’s Vivi, tiranno, offers plenty
of opportunities for devastating runs and pitch perfect theatrical
projection. It’s the kind of thing David Daniels does
so well, but Cencic is a more powerful singer with a greater
range. The final track offers a surprise - the only outing for
the chorus. The trumpet sparkles, too, and Cencic feeds on increasingly
florid divisions to end a disc of magnificent singing.
Splendidly recorded, honours are parcelled out between Cencic
and I Barrocchisti under Diego Fasolis. Incisive, bright, colourful,
rhythmically buoyant and devoid of some of the irksome mannerisms
of other leading practitioners, the band and its conductor are
a real pleasure to listen to.
see also review by Jean-Pierre