Arie Antiche: works by Durante, Falconieri, Caccini, Carissimi, Handel, Conti, Bononcini et al
Nathalie Stutzmann (contralto); Orfeo 55
Warner Classics 9029576529
This selection box of Baroque arias comes from the popular 19th-century anthology of Arie Antiche edited for voice and piano by Alessandro Parisotti and widely used by vocal students even today. For this recording, Stutzmann and Orfeo 55 have revived the original versions of the arias, interweaving them with contemporary instrumental works, to produce a colourful potpourri. The 25 tracks embrace Baroque hits like Handel’s ‘Piangerò la sorte mia’ (from Giulio Cesare in Egitto) and ‘Ah, mio cor, schermito sei (from Alcina), as well as melodious, lovelorn and humorous works by Caccini, Caldara, Carissimi, Cavalli, Alessandro Scarlatti and others.
Contralto Nathalie Stutzmann plays a dual role here, both as soloist and as director of the instrumental ensemble Orfeo 55. Her approach is highly expressive, coaxing performances that are nothing if not fiery. Stutzmann wrings every ounce of meaning and emotion from the texts, lending them real dramatic power – even outside their original context. She has an impressive range, too (the voice particularly plummy in its lowest register), and her vivid contrasts of light and shade would make even Caravaggio turn green. The drawbacks to these high-octane performances are that the voice is often forced and, as a result, it takes on an edgy tone, while her ample vibrato, dynamic swells, and a tendency to swoop up to notes, rather than attack them cleanly, all become rather intrusive mannerisms.
The vocal numbers are interlaced with movements from Italian Baroque sonatas and concertos, realised with an apt balance of lyricism and brio by Orfeo 55.