El Maestro Farinelli

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COMPOSERS: Blasco,Conforto,CPE Bach,Hasse,Jommelli,Marcolini,Nebra,Porpora,Traetta
LABELS: Archiv
ALBUM TITLE: El Maestro Farinelli
WORKS: Works by CPE Bach, Conforto, Hasse, Jommelli, Marcolini, Nebra, Blasco, Porpora and Traetta
PERFORMER: Bejun Mehta (countertenor); Concerto Köln/Pablo Heras-Casado
CATALOGUE NO: 479 2050

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In 1737, the much fêted 18th-century Italian castrato Farinelli was invited to the Spanish court to raise the depressed spirits of King Philip V with his legendary singing. Thereafter, as this disc reveals, he had a pervasive influence on Spanish music as a singer, director and impresario, collaborating with the leading composers of the day including CPE Bach, Hasse, Jommelli, Porpora, and local boy José de Nebra – ‘father’ of Spanish opera.

Rather than focusing entirely on their vocal works, this programme interlaces lively sinfonie and opera overtures with dance-inspired numbers from zarzuelas. Rhythmic fandangos and suave seguidillas are pepped with castanets and strumming guitars. But the disc’s highlight is countertenor Bejun Mehta’s poignant and beautifully controlled reading of Porpora’s aria ‘Alto Giove’ from Polifemo – Neapolitan opera at its most exquisitely lyrical. Concerto Köln, under the dynamic baton of Pablo Heras-Casado, offers such taut and spirited playing that surely even the melancholic Philip would have cheered.

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Kate Bolton