Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583 – 1643)
Se l'aura spira [2.29]
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567 – 1643)
Ecco di dolci raggi [2.32]
Benedetto FERRARI (c.1603 – 1681)
Amanti io vi so dire [5.12]
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567 – 1643)
Si dolce e l tormento [3.11]
Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583 – 1643)
A miei pianti [2.08]
Corrante [1.18]
Georg Friedrich HANDEL (1685 – 1739)
Aure soavi e lieti [7.08];
Preludio in G dur [2.18]
Antonio VIVALDI ( 1678 – 1741)
Piani, sospiri a dimandar mercede [9.52]
Francesco GEMINIANI (1687 – 1762)
Sonata fur Violoncello und b.c. in a-Moll [9.42]
Georg Friedrich HANDEL (1685 – 1739)
Dolc'e pur d'amor l'affanno [8.03]
Giovanni PAISIELLO (1740 – 1816)
Variazioni sull'aria Nel cor piu non mi sento! [5.41]
Franco Fagioli (counter-tenor); Luca Pianca (lute); Marco Frezzato (cello); Jorg Halubek (harpsichord)
rec. Hans-Rosbaud Studio, Baden Baden, 14-19 June 2010
CARUS 83.361 [60.32]

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.

Robert Hugill

An intelligently planned and well performed recital.