This album of Baroque cantatas and chamber duets grew out of a 2007 performance of Stefano Landi's 1631 opera Il Sant'Alessio starring Philippe Jaroussky and Max Emanuel Cencic (among the eight countertenors in the cast) with William Christie conducting Les Arts Florissants. Christie was so impressed with the blend of Jaroussky and Cencic's voices that he brought them together to explore the vast and rarely performed repertoire of late 17th and early 18th century Italian duets for equal voices.
La Venexiana (founded 1995) is an Italian early music ensemble founded and led by Claudio Cavina, an Italian countertenor and conductor. Cavina studied in Bologna with the American singer and musicologist Candace Smith, and then with the Swiss baritone Kurt Widmer and Belgian countertenor and conductor René Jacobs at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, then appeared regularly as a countertenor soloist and in choral works. La Venexiana, taking its name from an anonymous comedy La Venexiana (play) ("The Venetian Girl" c.1537) was created to focus on the core 4 and 5 voice madrigal repertory of Sigismondo d'India, Luzzasco Luzzaschi, Luca Marenzio, Barbara Strozzi, Gesualdo da Venosa and Claudio Monteverdi. The ensemble has later broadened to be the base of Cavina's productions and recordings of operas by Monteverdi and Francesco Cavalli. With Cavina's increasing focus on opera, members of the ensemble have concurrently formed La Compagnia del Madrigale which has continued the Gesualdo series on Glossa.
Handel composed his chamber duets and trios – nine of them presented here – at various times in his career: some during his crucial period in Italy, when he imbibed the latest Italian style at its source (1707-9); some during his period in Hanover (1710-12); and some during his London years (in 1720, then again in 1740-5). Their demands are often virtuosic: here sopranos Roberta Invernizzi and Silvia Frigato share the honours with tenor Krystian Adam and baritone Thomas Bauer, and they are all up to the pieces’ demands, even if occasionally, when the semiquavers come thick and fast, the result feels a little dogged.
Essential: a masterpiece of ancient music
Here is a dream gem for those who like the lute music, Hopkinson Smith (UK) and Paul O’Dette (US), together!
Based on concerts presented in Spain and France countertenors Philippe Jaroussky and Max Emanuel Cencic have joined with William Christie and the Les Arts Florissants to produce this CD of duets written for countertenors.
René Jacobs (born 30 October 1946, Ghent) is a Belgian (Flemish) musician. He came to fame as a countertenor but in recent years has become renowned as a conductor of Baroque and early Classical opera….
Here's a dream gem for those who like the lute, Hopkinson Smith and Paul O'Dette, together!
The real prize in this jam packed nine-CD set is of course the incandescent recording of Giulio Cesare with some of the most phenomenal singing on record by Larmore, Schlick, and Fink. When this came out it created quite a stir, given it is about as complete as it ever has been, and filled with Jacob’s searching and trend-setting conducting. While it won’t displace favorites of yesteryear, those recordings are of a different era and style altogether, and here the opera comes together in a manner fully redolent of what Handel must have envisioned.