The young Argentinian counter-tenor Franco Fagioli has already
appeared on disc in the title roles of Gluck's Ezio and
Handel's Teseo. This new disc is an altogether smaller
affair. It’s a charming disc of chamber cantatas and songs starting
with Monteverdi, through Vivaldi and Handel and finishing with
Paisiello. Fagioli is accompanied by an ensemble of harpsichord,
cello and lute. A number of items omit the harpsichord which
gives these pieces a nicely intimate feel.
Fagioli has a high counter-tenor voice with an impressive range
going above the stave. He has a significant vibrato which gives
his voice a nicely vibrant feel, but with a good core to the
voice. His lower register is inclined to chestiness at times,
but he has nice sweet tone over his whole range, plus some impressive
flexibility and depth of tone in his very upper register.
The drawback, from my point of view, is the combination of a
significant vibrato with fast baroque passagework; this is something
which may not bother everyone. But in Monteverdi's Ecco di
dolci raggi and Ferrari's Amanti io vi so dire the
results sound, to my ears, less than ideal. On the other hand
we are rewarded by the limpid beauty of Fagioli's performance
of Monteverdi's Si dolce e l'tormento.
Fagioli opens with Se l'aura spira which comes from Frescobaldi's
1603 publication Arie musicali - printed in Florence.
Frescobaldi is well known for his keyboard works but his vocal
oeuvre is far less known. Fagioli includes two pieces from Arie
musicali, finishing the opening group with A miei pianti.
But whilst these two are attractive, they are rather put in
the shade by the two Monteverdi items: Ecco di doci raggi
from Scherzi musicali published in Venice in 1632
and Si dolce d l'tormento which dates from 1620 when
Monteverdi came across the setting of the poem in a collection
of music by Francesco Petratti. In the middle of this group
is a rather charming satirical song by Benedetto Ferrari, who
wrote both the words and the music. Ferrari was deeply involved
in the early 17th century Venetian operatic scene,
but his music has not survived.
Separating the early baroque group from the late is an anonymous
Corrante played on the lute by Luca Pianca.
Handel's cantata Aure soavi e lieti was written in 1706
for Marchese Ruspoli for the Roman Arcadian Academy, where it
was Handel's job to entertain the guests. As with many of these
cantatas, Aure soavi has an erotic pastoral theme and
works rather well accompanied just by lute and cello. The second
Handel cantata Dolce pur d'amor l'affano was part of
the first group which Handel wrote when he came to London in
1710. Fagioli and his accompanists draw a really intimate feeling
from these cantatas; they are never short on drama, and still
manage to convey the idea that the performance is for a small
group of listeners.
The second Handel cantata and Vivaldi's Pianti, sospiri a
dimandar mercede are both accompanied by cello, lute and
harpsichord, giving a nice rich texture. The Vivaldi is quite
a showpiece with a pair of simile arias. This is far closer
to Vivaldi's operas than Handel's cantatas are. That said, some
of the melodic outlines of Handel's arias on this disc seem
to prefigure his later operatic arias.
The three instrumentalists contribute a cello sonata by Francesco
Geminiani. This is perhaps closer to trio-sonata than to later
ideas of the sonata.
Fagioli finishes with something in a lighter vein, Paisiello's
variations on the aria Nel cor piu non mi sento from
his opera La Molinara. Here Fagioli insouciantly throws
off some impressive high notes. It makes a charming and fun
finale to a very accomplished recital.
The CD booklet gives full texts and translations, though the
English translations are separate from the original texts, which
is slightly annoying.
Fagioli and his accompanists, Luca Pianca on lute, Marco Frezzato
on cello and Jorg Halubek on Harpsichord, create a suitably
intimate atmosphere for these chamber pieces. This is an intelligently
planned and well performed recital.