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Venezia - Opera arias of the Serenissima
Antonio CALDARA (c.1670-1736)
Adriano in Siria: Barbaro non comprendo (1732) [4:26]
Giovanni PORTA (1690-1755)
La costanza combattuta in amore: Mormorando quelle fronde (1716) [8:11]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
La verità in cimento: Mi vuoi tradir, lo so (1720) [3:41]
A’ piedi miei svenato [3:30]
Anche in mezzo a perigliosa [4:06]
Agrippo: Io son rea dell’onor mio [5:25]
Motezuma: Quel rossor che in volto miri (1733) [8:08]
Francesco GASPARINI (1671-1727)
Flavio Anicio Olibrio: Dolce mio ben, mia vita (1708) [4:52]
Geminiano GIACOMELLI (1692-1740)
Merope: Sposa ... non mi conosci (1734) [9:36]
Tomaso ALBINONI (1671-1751)
Il nascimento de l’Aurora: Pianta bella, pianta amata [6:28]
Giuseppe SELITTO (1700-1777)
Nitocri: Anche un misero arboscello (1733) [4:58]
Max Emanuel Cencic (counter-tenor)
Il Pomo d’Oro/Riccardo Minasi
rec. August/September 2012, Villa San Ferno, Lonigo, Vicenza
Texts and translations included
VIRGIN CLASSICS 4645452 [63:26]

Venetian musical taste in the eighteenth-century is explored in this racy disc. The operatic burgeoning in Rome and Naples challenged Venice’s predominant position and it’s not solely to Vivaldi that counter-tenor Max Emanuel Cencic turns. A number of lesser-known contemporaries, either themselves Venetian or with important links to the city, are included.
Inevitably the recital is constructed on the fast-slow principle with coloratura virtuosity usually followed by rich, warm slower music. This brings variety but also just a hint of predictability into performances that are largely extrovert. Vivaldi, or works long ascribed to him, makes up just under half of the programme. We also hear from Caldara, whose Barbaro non comprendo is a formidably direct and brilliant example of the genre, its inherent instability adding terrifically to the sense of pervasive drama. These qualities find responsive partners in Cencic and Riccardo Minasi’s Il Pomo d’Oro, which is not a bashful band. Giovanni Porta’s 1716 aria Mormorando quelle fronde is a much more expansive mid-tempo number, and here Cencic fines his tone to excellent effect, whilst ensuring that it retains body throughout its compass - no thinning here.
Francesco Gasparini’s contribution is sparely accompanied, whilst Geminiano Giacomeli’s aria from his Merope unleashes from Cencic some formidable examples of his chest voice which flares like a mezzo in a thoroughly theatrical and convincing way; this is one of the most coruscatingly operatic of these selections. Albinoni contributes a lovely aria with a dappled descending line and it helps grant expressive richness to the programme - not inappropriately it’s from a sereneta, not an opera.
Vivaldi’s A’ piedi miei svenato finds soloist and orchestra on fine, cutting form: the counter-tenor’s attaca is torrid, his navigation of the difficult divisions full of haughty command. The aria from Agrippo is a fast one but Cencic insinuates some canny rubati and this depends on razor-sharp ensemble and a real amount of preparation. Mi vuoi tradir, lo so from La verità in cimento draws some tempestuous string articulation from the orchestra. Slow but intense, Quel rossor che in volto miri is another example of technical bravura.
Cencic reveals here just why he is so suited to this; his voice is virtuosic but full of colour, his command of divisions sounds absolute, and his theatrical musicality is everywhere apparent.
Jonathan Woolf