D Scarlatti, Porpora, Hasse, Vinci, Gasparini, Bononcini, Porta & Amadei

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COMPOSERS: Bononcini,D Scarlatti,Gasparini,Hasse,Porpora,Porta & Amadei,Vinci
LABELS: Janiculum
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Handel’s Rivals
WORKS: Operatic arias
PERFORMER: Marie Vassiliou (soprano), Alasdair Elliott (tenor), Jane Clark (harpsichord), etc
CATALOGUE NO: JAN D 203 (from janeclark@intune.co.uk)
Handel’s operatic career was beset with rivalries. In the 1720s the chief threat came from his fellow Royal Academy composer Giovanni Bononcini; in the 1730s it was a rival company, the Opera of the Nobility, headed by the composer Nicola Porpora and starring the great castrato Farinelli. Janiculum has put together an entertaining disc of London’s favourite arias by a number of these would-be rivals: in addition to Bononcini and Porpora, they included Giovanni Porta, whose Numitore was chosen to launch the Royal Academy in 1720; Domenico Scarlatti, whose Narciso also opened in London in 1720; and Johann Adolf Hasse, husband of Handel’s prima donna Faustina Bordoni.

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Such composers may have been Handel’s commercial rivals but no one today would claim they were his artistic equal. The music on this CD is pleasant and well-crafted, yet compared to recent recitals of Handel arias (such as those by María Bayo and Emma Kirkby) much of it also sounds conventional and tame. A further disappointment is that those arias originally written for castrato have been transferred here to tenor or soprano. Marie Vassiliou and Alasdair Elliott acquit themselves well but a countertenor would surely have come closer to realising the sensual frisson so essential to this music. Graham Lock