Italian composer Nicola Porpora is mainly a footnote in the history books these days, noted as Haydn's teacher, but in his day he was a rival to Handel and wrote a good deal of music for the celebrated castrato Carlo Broschi, aka, Farinelli. That music is sampled here by the startlingly soprano-like French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, and listeners are likely to feel that it's been unjustly neglected. Jaroussky sounds great, his creamy voice sailing through the mostly tuneful pieces. There are also a few big showpieces of the sort that Renée Fleming and others have recorded on their Baroque aria albums. Jaroussky is not quite as powerful here, but there are some real finds in the music like the gripping soprano-and-trumpet cadenza in "Nell'attendere il mio bene," from Polifemo (track 8). All the way through the music is like that: it's recognizably part of the same world as Handel's arias, but it's full of original touches unrelated to Handel. Porpora's most famous piece, the atmospheric "Alto giove" (again from the opera Polifemo) is here, as are a couple of duets in which Jaroussky is joined by no less than Cecilia Bartoli. These fall easily into the classification of rare treat. Throw in sensitive accompaniment from the Venice Baroque Orchestra and conductor Andrea Marcon for an extremely worthwhile Baroque aria recital. (James Manheim)
Nils Mönkemeyer takes Bach’s love of the viola as his starting point for a daring, inventive and colourful album. The viola is shown to be the cello’s equal in an elegantly shaped performance of the composer’s Suite No. 5—Mönkemeyer juxtaposes each movement with a hybrid viola and theorbo arrangement which, if not authentic, is nevertheless stunning. Elsewhere, French music is explored through a world premiere recording of an 18th-century Suite by Robert de Visée and a beautiful ensemble piece by the 17th-century Michel Lambert. An exquisite version of one of Bach’s chorale preludes “Nun Komm” finishes this album in style.
Though Bach’s set of six Sonatas and Partitas represents the pinnacle of writing for the solo violin, the Baroque repertoire was rich in compositions for the unaccompanied violin, much of which remains little explored. On this recording Augusta McKay Lodge, hailed as ‘the real thing, a true virtuoso’ (Seen and Heard), explores masters of the genre such as Biber, Locatelli and Pisendel but delves deeper to include the impassioned works of Nicola Matteis, the Franco-Italian warmth of Thomas Baltzar and a series of other long-overshadowed works by their contemporaries.
Gustavo primo, re di Svezia (Gustavus the First, King of Sweden) is a three act opera seria by Baldassare Galuppi, with a libretto by Carlo Goldoni, fictionalising events in the life of Gustav I of Sweden. Composed in honour of the Genoese nobleman marchese Giovanni Giacomo Grimaldi, it premiered on 25 May 1740 at Venice's Teatro San Samuele. It was first recorded in 2003 by Karoly, Gonzalez, Cecchetti and the Capella Savaria Baroque Orchestra, conducted by Fabio Pirona.
This the work was first given in Vienna during Holy Week, 1729, the first of many collaborations between Caldara and Metastasio. Mention of the great librettist provides a prompt that my original review failed to stress the outstanding qualities of the text. Divided into two halves, the first part of the oratorio relates the story of the crucifixion as witnessed through the eyes of Mary Magdalene, John, and Joseph of Arimathea, who respond to the eager questioning of the remorseful Peter. The second part consists of philosophical commentary on the meaning of the crucifixion. Particularly in Part I, Metastasio draws on vivid imagery to convey the full horror of the event. Here, for example, is John describing the nailing to the cross: "… and some hardened, loutish men, sweating as they worked, bathed his face with their foul perspiration."