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Xavier Sabata (countertenor)
Armonia Atenea/George Petrou
rec. September 2015, Athènes au Megaron, Greece
Full sung Italian texts with English translations
APARTÉ AP143 [66.00]

This is an impressive album titled Catharsis by renowned countertenor Xavier Sabata on Aparté, from the quality of the singing and choice of works right down to the outstanding presentation. The booklet notes explain how around the year 1600 a number of Florentine noblemen started to write dramatic stage works, the forerunner of opera, inspired by the writings of Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle. Opera Seria upheld a number of the Aristotelean ideas used in Greek drama especially the notion of ‘hybris’, ‘nemesis’ and ‘catharsis’ which would release and purify the emotions. This is why the album by the Spanish born Sabata has the name Catharsis.

Sabata, for his third solo album for Aparté, has chosen ten arias in total from nine different composers, seven Italian and two German, Handel and Hasse, with all the works sung in Italian. Most of the arias are preceded by a sung recitative to basso continuo or recitativo accompagnato. All the works are from operas apart from the Hasse piece which is taken from an oratorio. A mix of well known composers Vivaldi and Bach to much lesser known Torri, Ariosti, Caldera, Orlandini, Sarro and Conti all the tracks have real merit and there are four arias that I especially enjoyed.

The sparks fly in Torri’s aria ‘Vorresti col tuo pianto’ from Griselda (1723). In this hubris-aria king Gualtieri has forsaken his wife for a young princess; it is a very good vehicle for Sabata, displaying some thrilling coloratura. Probably the best known aria on the album is ‘Gelido in ogni vena’ from Vivaldi’s Farnace (1727) Throughout this shadow aria it is remarkable how Sabata is able to maintain such a high level of emotional intensity as Farnace, king of Pontus, who realises he is to blame for killing his own son. Next comes Handel’s ‘Chiudetevi miei lumi’ as sung by the castrato Senesino from Admeto (1727), which was such a successful opera for the composer. Here the anguished king Admeto is resigned to death. This affecting arioso is sung tenderly by Sabata conveying a sense of resignation and near-reverential quality. Also admirable, from Ariosti’s opera Caio Mazio Coriolano (1723) is the aria ‘Voi, d’un figlio tanto misero’ which was also sung by Senesino. This very moving scene of catharsis sung gloriously and expressively by Sabata explodes into life in the central section.

Countertenor Xavier Sabata demonstrates his marvellous voice, which is radiant with a bright decisive, steely tone, although there is also warmth. There is little sense of strain and together with good diction he has a special ability for deep expression that makes me believe every word he sings, together with his ability to move the listener. Directed by George Petrou, Armonia Atenea, some twenty-two strong on period instruments here, play resolutely with no shortage of expression although there are occasions I would have prefered more poise, rather than additional vigour. Closely recorded in 2015 at Athènes au Megaron, Greece the sound quality is commendable being clear, cool and satisfyingly balanced. I am pleased to report that full sung Italian texts with English translations are provided in the booklet.

With countertenor Xavier Sabata in such compelling form, lovers of early music will find plenty to relish here.

Michael Cookson

Track listing
Giuseppe Maria ORLANDINI (1676-1760)
1. Ciò che donò la frode, recitativo – Adelaide (Venice 1729) [0.32]
2. Alza al ciel pianta orgogliosa, aria – Adelaide (Venice 1729) [3.55]
Francesco Bartolomeo CONTI (1681-1722)
3. In te, sposa Griselda, mi uccido, recitativo – Griselda (Vienna 1725) [0.37]
4. Cara sposa, aria Griselda – (Vienna 1725) [4.39]
Pietro TORRI (1650-1737)
5. Vorresti col tuo pianto, aria – Griselda (Munich 1723) [3.49]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
6. Gelido in ogni vena, aria – Farnace (Venice 1727) [10.28]
Giuseppe Maria ORLANDINI
7. O del mio caro ben, recitativo – Adelaide (Venice 1729) [0.38]
8. Già mi sembra al carro avvinto, aria – Adelaide (Venice 1729) [4.13]
Georg Friedrich HANDEL (1685-1759)
9. Introduzzione, lentamente – Admeto (London 1727) [2.23]
10. Orride larve, recitativo accompagnato – Admeto (London 1727) [2.51]
11. Chiudetevi miei lumi, arioso – Admeto (London 1727) [3.08]
Johann Adolph HASSE (1699-1783)
12. Viver vogl’io sempre per te mio dio, recitativo accompagnato – La conversion di Sant’Agostino (1760) [1.15]
13. Or mi pento, aria – La conversion di Sant’Agostino (1760) [7.42]
Attilio ARIOSTI (1666-1729)
14. Spirate, o oniqui marmi, recitativo accompagnato – Caio Mazio Coriolano (London 1723) [3.18]
15. Voi, d’un figlio tanto misero, aria – Caio Mazio Coriolano (London 1723) [8.17]
Antonio CALDARA (1670-1736)
16. Ah, frenate il pianto imbelle – Temistocle (Vienna 1736) [3.09]
Domenico SARRO (1679-1744)
17. Sorte nemica! recitativo accompagnato – Il Valdemaro (Rome 1726) [1.50]
18. Quando onor favella al core, aria – Il Valdemaro (Rome 1726) [3.26]



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