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Giacomo Antonio PERTI (1661-1756)
Date all’armi o spirit fieri (Nerone fatto Cesare, 1693) [3:58]
Nicola Antonio PORPORA (1686-1768)
Mormorando anch’il ruschello (L’Agrippina, 1708) [3:55]
Carl Heinrich GRAUN (1704-1759)
Se la mia vita, o figlio (Britannico, 1751) [8:37]
Mi paventi il figlio indegno (Britannico, 1751) [8:00]
Giuseppe Maria ORLANDINI (c.1675-1760)
Tutta furie e tutta sdegno (Nerone, 1721) [3:20]
Johann MATTHESON (1681-1764)
Giątutto valore (Nero, 1723) [2:50]
Georg Friedrich HÄNDEL (1685-1759)
Ogni vento (Agrippina, 1709) [4:43]
Pensieri, voi mi tormentate (Agrippina, 1709) [6:31]
L’alma mia fra le tempeste (Agrippina, 1709) [2:36]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Rimembranza crudel (Germanicus, 1704-10)
Paolo Giuseppe MAGNI (c.1650-1737)
Date all’armi o spirit fieri (Nerone Infante, 1703) [3:03]
Giovanni Battista SAMMARTINI (1701-1775)
Non ho pił vele (Agrippina moglie di Tiberio, 1743) [5:55]
Deh, lasciami in pace (Agrippina moglie di Tiberio, 1743) [5:29]
Giovanni LEGRENZI (1626-1690)
O soave tormenti dell’alma (Germanico sul Reno, 1676) [1:34]
Giacomo Antonio PERTI (1661-1756)
Questo brando, questo folgore (Nerone fatto Cesare, 1693) [2:44]
Ann Hallenberg (mezzo)
Il pomo d’Oro/Riccardo Minasi
rec. date and location not given.
Texts and translations included.
DEUTSCHE HARMONIA MUNDI 88875 055982 [74:54]

This is a glorious CD – full of wonderful singing and outstanding orchestral work. It features an original, fascinating, scholarly and beautifully planned programme. Since my review will be almost entirely celebratory, let me begin with the nearest I can come to a negative observation; albeit one that is pedantic and trivial. The album is entitled ‘Agrippina’; strictly speaking it should have been called ‘Agrippinas’, since it contains arias written for three different - though related - historical Agrippas. The most famous was Julia Agrippina (AD 15-59), known as Agrippinilla (or ‘Agrippina the Younger’). She is the notorious ‘heroine’ of Handel’s celebrated opera, and also the Agrippina who features in the operas by Perti, Magni, Mattheson, Orlandini and Graun from all of which items are included here. Many will be familiar with her ambitious machinations — the real or legendary nature of which still remains a matter of scholarly debate — from, amongst other sources, Robert Graves’s two novels I Claudius and Claudius the God. Her mother, Julia Vipsania Agrippina (c.14 BC – AD 33) is sometimes referred to as Agrippina the Elder; she was the daughter of Marcus Vipsania Agrippa by his second wife Julia, daughter of the Emperor Augustus. Hallenberg sings arias written for her by Legrenzi, Telemann and Porpora. The third Agrippina, often referred to just as Vipsania Agrippina (c.36 BC- AD 20), was also the daughter of Vipsania Agrippa and was, as a baby, married to Tiberius. She is the Agrippina of - as its title makes clear - Sammartini’s Agrippina Moglie di Tiberio, represented here by two items. Although pedants like me might, therefore, quibble about the title of the CD, the fact that it draws on music written for all three Agrippinas, rather than just one of them, is actually very much in its favour. The three women were rather different in character and found themselves in different kinds of situation, even if all of them were actors/victims in a world thoroughly determined by the three forces named in the subtitle of Anthony A. Barrett’s 1999 book on Agrippina the Younger: - Agrippina: Sex, Power, and Politics in the Early Empire.
In hunting down and selecting the programme of this CD Ann Hallenberg worked with a number of musicologists, not least her husband Holger Schmitt Hallenberg who brought to the exercise not only considerable scholarship but also a thorough knowledge of Ann Hallenberg’s voice and its – many – strengths. The result is a carefully – and learnedly – chosen programme which, with its three related but different ‘heroines’, ensures that the CD has both unity and variety. We are treated, for example, to the tormented ambition of Handel’s ‘Pensieri, voi mi tormente’ and the poignancy of Telemann’s ‘Rimembranza crudel’; to the dazzling fireworks of Graun’s ‘Mi paventi il figlio indegno’ and the tenderness of Porpora’s ‘Mormorando anchi’l ruschello’; to the excited joy of Handel’s ‘Ogni vento’ and the fury of Orlandini’s ‘Tutta furie e tutta sdegno’. The range of emotions is complemented - and wonderfully articulated - by the variety of vocal weight and colour which Hallenberg brings to the music. Her interpretations are vivid, yet nuanced, full of quickly delineated characterisation and supremely intelligent in their attention to textual and musical detail. There may, just occasionally, be one or two very minor imperfections right at the top of her voice, but these pale into complete insignificance in the larger context of such superb vocal interpretation.

Il pomo d’Oro is a fine period instrument band and, under the leadership of violinist Riccardo Minasi, its work here is richly - but not excessively - coloured, the rhythmic impetus and control perfectly judged. The orchestra and conductor fully play their part on what is, as I said in the first words of this review, a quite glorious recording. Don’t worry if much of the repertoire is unknown to you — 12 of the 16 tracks appear to be world premiere recordings — singer and orchestra make such a persuasive case for all this music that only those with a rooted dislike of the baroque will not be entirely won over.

Glyn Pursglove



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