WORKS: Songs and arias by Caccini, Handel, Vivaldi, Mozart, Schubert, Viardot, Berlioz, Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini, Giordani, Montsalvatge & Bizet
PERFORMER: Cecilia Bartoli (mezzo-soprano), Jean-Yves Thibaudet (piano); Sonatori de la Gioiosa Marca
CATALOGUE NO: 455 981-2
If you’re a Bartoli fan and already have several of her studio recordings, you’ll know the majority of songs here. Recorded live at the Teatro Olimpico, Vicenza, celebrated more for Palladio’s architecture than its cool acoustics, there are the inevitable noises off, applause (unexpectedly restrained) and occasional rough edges to that burnished voice. But only the mean-minded could fail to be impressed by the ardour and exuberance here.
Few pianists are more accomplished than Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and Bartoli, as ever, is in a class of her own. Hers is a fabulous voice, and the in-your-face recording balance brings all its warmth, range and expressiveness to the fore. All the composers most readily associated with her are featured: Mozart, Rossini, Bellini, Pauline Viardot and a sprinkling of arie antiche. The three Caccini songs and Vivaldi’s ‘Agitata da due venti’, on which she is accompanied by the outstanding Baroque septet Sonatori de la Gioiosa Marca, are worth the price of this disc in themselves.
But perhaps the absolute highlight is her final encore: the Seguidilla from Carmen. Her early ambition to be a flamenco dancer and her virtuosic way with castanets in Berlioz’s ‘Zaïde’ suggest that this, above all others, is the role she was born for. Claire Wrathall