Caccini, Carissimi, Lotti, A Scarlatti, Caldara, Marcello, etc

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: A Scarlatti,Caccini,Caldara,Carissimi,etc,Lotti,Marcello
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Arie Antiche
WORKS: Music
PERFORMER: Ramón Vargas (tenor), ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 63913 2
Once upon a time, it seemed, no song recital was complete without its opening set of ‘ancient airs’ – those last survivors of 200-odd years of pre-Mozartian opera, as preserved in three 19th-century volumes by Alessandro Parisotti. Yet nowadays, while the operas of Gluck, Handel and Monteverdi have made it back on stage, these small mementoes of their lesser-known rivals seem to have fallen out of fashion once again. Which makes Ramón Vargas’s new collection something of a rarity, all the more welcome since, unlike so many recitalists of old, he treats them not as mere warm-up exercises but as miniature masterpieces of the operatic art. Not that this delightful disc, with its unashamedly inauthentic, salon-style arrangements by Viennese conductor-violinist Sascha Goetzel and US composer Joseph Turrin, leaves any doubt about the Mexican tenor’s bel canto credentials. But if, with his unfailingly bright tone, buoyant phrasing and winning way with words, it’s the young Pavarotti that he often recalls, his range of colour is possibly even greater: compare the brightness and sparkle of Alessandro Scarlatti’s ‘Gia il sole del Gange’ with the dark despair he finds in the shifting harmonic undercurrents of Caldara’s sunless ‘Come raggio di sol’. As for the Mozartian grace and honeyed mezza voce he brings to Paris’s poised but passionate paean to Helen from Paride ed Elena, they alone should earn this disc shelf-space beside Bartoli’s best-selling Gluck album. Mark Pappenheim