Dolce mio ben

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COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Berlin
WORKS: Cantatas and opera arias by various artists
PERFORMER: Maite Beaumont (mezzo-soprano);Lautten Compagney/Wolfgang Katschner
CATALOGUE NO: 0017702BC

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Eighteenth-century European courts collected ‘economy packages’ of selections from the operas staged in the great centres such as Naples, Rome, Venice. Four cantatas and a few single arias are programmed here to create a make-believe evening’s entertainment at the German court of Sondershausen. The composers are mostly little-known, (Magini defeats New Grove II completely), but this selection of their music stands comparison with the best: a ‘rejected lover’ aria by Sarri with powerful unisons and purposeful melodic line; a poignant aria by Conti of a heart lost in love, the slow line unwinding over a decorative cello obbligato; an aria, by Fedeli, of hopeful longing, double-bass pizzicato marking the resolute harmony.

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Beaumont has a fine and versatile voice, thrillingly rich in its mid-tolowest register displayed at the start in a pensive aria by Gasparini. She is cautiously sparing with ornaments, and avoids cadenzas altogether. Instrumental accompaniment reflects the reduced forces on a court pay-roll – solo strings with occasionally over-weighty double bass, and continuo. Chaconnes by Matteis, some coloured by guitar, and a delightfully chirpy Sinfonia by the unknown Magini provide instrumental interludes. Though English translations are lacking, the emotional thrusts of the arias – the conventional entanglements of love – are unmistakeable. George Pratt