This rewarding album is the result of Ann Hallenberg’s investigations into ancient Roman history. Not one, but three Agrippinas are mustered here. Two of them are daughters from two of three marriages of consul Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, while the third and best known was the infamous daughter of the younger of the above-mentioned, sister of Caligula and mother of Nero. She gets the lion’s share of the music – not the happiest figure of speech, perhaps in this period of Roman history – with arias by six of the ten composers featured in Hallenberg’s recital.
Most of the music is new to disc, though keen followers of Italian opera seria may have encountered Telemann’s ‘Rimembranza crudel’ from Germanicus, and many will recognise the three chosen arias from Handel’s early opera Agrippina. Especially alluring is ‘Ogni vento’ in waltz metre, though the instrumental accompaniment is insufficiently light-footed. Among other delights are pieces by Handel’s gifted Italian contemporary Porpora and two generously proportioned arias from Britannico by Frederick the Great’s Kapellmeister, Carl Heinrich Graun. Hallenberg is on scintillating form, fluent alike in bravura, of which Graun’s ‘Mi paventi’ with horns provides a dazzling example, and cantilena. The instrumental support provided by Il Pomo d’Oro under its director Riccardo Minasi is generally crisp and alert with fine contributions from the oboes. Nicholas Anderson