Collection: Arie Antiche

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Alessandro Scarlatti,Caccini,Caldara,Carissimi,Cavalli,Giordani,Paisiello,Vivaldi
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Arias by Alessandro Scarlatti, Paisiello, Caldara, Caccini, Giordani, Cavalli, Carissimi, Vivaldi,
PERFORMER: Cecilia Bartoli (mezzo-sop) György Fischer (pno)
CATALOGUE NO: 436 267-2 DDD

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After the drama and swagger of the Rossini and Mozart showpieces with which Cecilia Bartoli established her prodigious reputation, it comes as a surprise to hear her approach such gentle and seemingly straightforward material. But even without the exuberant melismata of the repertory in which she has tended to specialise, the result is impressive.

Her style has matured noticeably since her Rossini Heroines disc this time last year. There is no longer evidence of the Supervia-style rattle, of the reckless, though always exhilarating bel canto. Instead she produces a sound so exquisitely controlled and effortlessly beautiful that the effect is utterly seductive. Alessandro Parisotti’s late 19th-century arrangements of arie antiche (songs by Alessandro Scarlatti, Caldara, Cavalli, Carissimi and Vivaldi, among others from the late 17th and early 18th centuries) are disconcertingly simple in form and can easily expose a singer’s limitations: there is neither flashiness, nor any real dramatic element to hide behind. But Bartoli proves a sensitive and affecting interpreter of these mostly tragic pieces.

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From the stateliness of Giordani’s ‘Caro mio ben’, reminiscent of Handel’s ‘Ombra mai fù’, or the anonymous and achingly lyrical ‘O leggiadri occhi belli’, to the enchanting cooing sound she produces on Lotti’s ‘Pur dicesti, o bocca bella’ or the brightness of Paisiello’s ‘Chi vuol la zingarella’, Bartoli emerges as a singer not only gifted with exceptional vocal skills, but of consummate artistry, emotion and warmth. György Fischer provides meticulous and supportive accompaniment. Claire Wrathall