Songs of Orpheus: Songs by Monteverdi, Caccini, Castello, Cima, Landi, Brunelli and Merula

Karim Sulayman; Apollo’s Fire/Jeanette Sorrell (Avie)

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Songs of Orpheus Songs by Monteverdi, Caccini, Castello, Cima, Landi, Brunelli and Merula
Karim Sulayman (tenor); Apollo’s Fire/Jeanette Sorrell
Avie AV2383 63:21 mins

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The myth of Orpheus, with its timeless themes of love and loss, provides the inspiration for this debut solo recording by Lebanese-American tenor Karim Sulayman. Together with the Cleveland-based period-instrument ensemble Apollo’s Fire, Sulayman traces the legendary hero’s journey to the Underworld and back, through a medley of solo vocal works by Caccini, Monteverdi, Sigismondo d’India and Stefano Landi, arranged in a narrative sequence and interspersed with fiery instrumental pieces by their Italian contemporaries.

Sulayman’s approach tends more towards the lyrical than the rhetorical – his lucid, velvety tenor and pop-star charisma best suited to melodious arias rather than the text-driven stile recitativo. He casts beguilingly mellifluous lines over the hypnotic ground bass of Merula’s Folle è ben, and captures the wistful melancholy of d’India’s Piangono al pianger mio with mellow tones. Though Sulayman’s Italian diction is impeccable, the rhetorical qualities of Caccini’s and Monteverdi’s recitational style are sometimes glossed over in favour of pure beauty of sound. Under the spirited direction of Jeannette Sorrell, Apollo’s Fire provides slick and stylish continuo realisations while their hot-blooded accounts of violin sonatas by Castello and Cima convey the devil-may-care virtuosity of the Italian stylus fantasticus. The close recorded sound is wrapped with a rather-too-churchy echo.

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Kate Bolton-Porciatti