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Amore Dolore (Nicolò Balducci)

Nicolò Balducci (countertenor); Baroque Academy Gothenburg Symphony/Dan Laurin (recorder) (BIS)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Amore Dolore
Arias by Broschi, Duni, Handel and Vivaldi
Nicolò Balducci (countertenor); Baroque Academy Gothenburg Symphony/Dan Laurin (recorder)
BIS BIS-2645 (CD/SACD)   71:34 mins

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There are around half a dozen recordings currently claiming to represent the repertoire of the famous 18th-century castrato Carlo Broschi, otherwise known as Farinelli. This is one of the better ones. The arias mostly come from the 1720s and ’30s, and are performed here by the countertenor and sopranist Nicolò Balducci; he is just 24 years old but is already gaining a reputation for his coloratura agility and acting skills.

The flexibility and assertiveness of his singing is best heard in excitable arias featuring storms or revenge – for example in Vivaldi’s defiant ‘Nel profondo ceco mondo’, or Duni’s ecstatically vigorous ‘Sperai vicino il lido’, though in the latter and elsewhere his voice can get a little brittle and colourless.

Not every aria Farinelli sang has been identified, though we can be reasonably sure that his roles were not usually of female characters. That said one of the best tracks here is Handel’s superb aria for Cleopatra, ‘Se pietà di me non senti’ from Giulio Cesare. This item (on track 6) was a bit of surprise since it replaces ‘Ombra mai fu’ (from Serse) listed in that place. Nonetheless this is Balducci at his most fluent, expressive and compelling, a performance only equalled by his tender account of ‘Sento in seno’ from Vivaldi’s Tieteberga. The orchestral performance is spirited with some particularly fine recorder obbligato playing, though phrasing is sometimes oddly disjonted by both orchestra (Overture to Giulio Cesare) and singer (‘Lascia ch’io pianga’).

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Anthony Pryer