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Blandine Staskiewicz (mezzo)
Les Ambassadeurs/Alexis Kossenko
rec. Temple St Marcel, Paris, 2014. DDD
Texts and translations included
GLOSSA GCD923503 [64:38]

This very enjoyable album might be seen to occupy that feuding ground between mezzos and countertenors in which Porpora, Handel and Vivaldi are the usual reportorial suspects. But what is especially enjoyable is the symbiosis both of singer and song and singer and band, the whole adding up to a 65-minute recital that impresses on most levels and will provide musical nourishment even to those who never wish, in this or any other life, to hear Ombra mai f again.

Porpora’s Spesso di nubbi cinto gets the disc off to a rollicking start. Here Blandine Staskiewicz’s singing is stylistically apt, the voice focused, the divisions formidably maintained, the expression buoyant and communicative. Countertenor Franco Fagioli recorded this on a recent all-Porpora album I reviewed and, for all his gleaming varnish, his exaggerations cede to her far more musical approach. Les Ambassadeurs live up to their name in Vivaldi’s Sovvente il sole, where the solo violin playing of Zefira Valova is crisp and subtly shaped. Her phrasing of the accompanying figures never sags – as it easily could otherwise – and her playing is an apt foil to Staskiewicz who sings the aria with sensibility and refinement. Similarly the oboe commentary of Gilles Vanssons enlivens and nourishes the Agrippina aria, Pensieri, voi mi tormentate whilst a great sense of theatre pervades Pergolsei’s Torbido in volto from Adriano in Siria.
The Radamisto aria is well chosen, as it pre-figures Ombra mai f melodically but is far less well known and Brilla nell’alma is garlanded with virtuosic runs. These elements add variety to the programme, as do the orchestral extracts, such as the Agrippina overture and the two overtures from Vivaldi’s L’Olimpiade which form mini-programmes of their own – though I know that some listeners don’t much approve of vocal recitals being broken up in this way. To me, here, it works reasonably well.

So there’s a great deal to enjoy, with a band on top-class form incisively directed by Alexis Kossenko, whose flute peregrinations in Vivaldi’s Io son fra l’onde certainly do nothing to dim the athletic and virtuoso pleasures of this set.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Brian Wilson


Nicola PORPORA (1686-1768)
Spesso di nubi cinto (Carlo il Calvo) [6:44]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Sovvente il sole (Andromeda liberata) [9:20]
Io son fra l’onde (La verit in cimento) [4:03]
Agitata da due venti (Griselda) [5:46]
Ouverture (L’Olimpiade) [4:33]
Siam navi all’onde algenti (L’Olimpiade) [6:33]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Ouverture (Agrippina) [3:27]
Pensieri, voi mi tormentate (Agrippina) [4:35]
Quando mai spietata sorte (Radamisto) [2:42]
Brilla nell’alma (Alessandro) [5:57]
Ombra mai f (Serse) [3:56]
Giovanni Battista PERGOLESI (1710-1736)
Torbido in volto (Adriano in Siria) [6:57]



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