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The Farinelli Manuscript
ANONYMOUS possibly Carlo [or Riccardo] Broschi FARINELLI (1705-1782]
Son qual nave che agitata (from Mitridate) [12:59]
Gaetano LATILLA (1711-1788)
Vuoi per sempre abbandonarmi? (from Il nata de Giove) [11:00]
Niccolò CONFORTO (1718-1793)
Ogni dì più molesto (from La festa cinese) [1:41]; Non sperar, non lusingarti (from La festa cinese) [10:27]
Geminiano GIACOMELLI (1692-1740)
Quell'usignolo (from Merope) [10:27]
Giovanni Battista MELE (1693/94-after 1752)
Io sperai del porto in seno (from Armida placata) [9:51]
ANONYMOUS possibly Geminiano GIACOMELLI
Invan ti chiamo, invan ti cerco, amato (from Sabrina) [3:12]: Al dolor che vo’ sfogando (from Sabrina) [11:57]
Ann Hallenberg (mezzo-soprano)
Stile Galante/Stefano Aresi
rec. 2019, Schuilkerk De Hoop, Diemen
Texts and translations included
GLOSSA GCD923521 [72:04]

In March 1753 Carlo Broschi, better known perhaps as ‘Farinelli’, sent a 90-page hand-written and lavishly decorated volume of music to the Empress Maria Theresa. It contained six arias and two recitatives which the castrato had sung for the Spanish kings and he intended the gift to convey the range and quality of his voice – the ultimate stylistic calling card. In addition, he included, in two of the arias, the ornaments and cadenzas he used in the da capos, invaluable evidence of his performance practice. Despite reportage as to Farinielli’s evening recitals at the courts in Madrid and Aranjuez, this illustrated book is the only direct evidence of specific repertoire that he sang on these occasions. It offers a storehouse of contemporary information and its preservation in Vienna has wholly informed this disc’s rationale.

I’ve noted before – I made one of her previous discs a Recording of the Year – how much I admire Ann Hallenberg. Teaming up with Stile Galante and Stefano Aresi ensures she receives crisp support, and she demonstrates yet again her remarkable credentials in this music. The first aria is anonymous and is possibly by Carlo or even by his brother Riccardo Broschi. Hallenberg shows an imperious command of the divisions, slipping easily, if startlingly, to her chest voice. When she utilises Farinelli’s da capos she employs some visceral upward scoops and virtuoso roulades in a remarkable exhibition of technical supremacy.

The alternation between ‘affect’ and bravura which lies at the heart of so much of Farinelli’s success as a performer is embodied by Gaetano Latilla’s aria Vuoi per sempre abbandonarmi? in which the hesitancy of expression is coupled with a forceful declamatory power. This latter element is foremost in Niccolò Conforto’s Non sperar, non lusingarti, where her flexible vocalism is admirably deployed, as is, incidentally, the harpsichord playing of Andrea Friggi. The other aria to include Farinelli’s written-out da capo cadenza is Giacomelli’s Quell'usignolo, a mid-tempo piece as expansive as the majority of other arias, which range in these performances from ten to thirteen minutes. She reaches to her chest voice here, but not as richly as in the opening aria and this discretion serves the music well. Giovanni Battista Mele’s Io sperai del porto in seno must have given Farinelli endless opportunities for theatrical projection, given that it asks much of the performer’s technique but rather less in the way of legato, pathos or introspection. There again, whilst there are splendid opportunities for the solo cello in Al dolor che vo’ sfogando – conjecturally composed by Giacomelli – it’s very much a vehicle for a fusillade of unstoppable virtuosity.

This valuable recording offers vital performances that embody qualities that can conjecturally be ascribed to Farinelli – qualities that encompassed the expressive and the barnstorming – in a way made even more valuable by virtue of including the singer’s own additions.

The recording is generally good though sometimes the horns, which have rather a wide vibrato, can over-part the strings and sometimes there is a suggestion of glassiness in the latter. Still, Hallenberg is in her element here; whether Farinelli sang like this we can surely doubt or never know, but she makes a striking impression nonetheless.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Margarida Mota-Bull



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