A Royal Trio

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COMPOSERS: & Ariosti,Bononcini,Handel
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Selected Arias by Handel, Bononcini, & Ariosti
PERFORMER: Lawrence Zazzo (countertenor); La Nuova Musica/David Bates


Countertenor Lawrence Zazzo, conductor David Bates and La Nuova Musica explore the period between 1721 and 1727 when the Royal Academy of Music presented Handel’s operas alongside those of Giovanni Bononcini and Attilio Ariosti at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket. The fourth personality at play is the alto castrato Senesino, whose voice inspired much of their music. Excepting Giulio Cesare’s ‘Va tacito’, presented here with a brusque marcato bass line and a flamboyant extended cadenza for countertenor and horn, Zazzo and Bates have sourced their Handel numbers from less well-known operas: Flavio, Admeto, Ottone.


The other composers’ music is never less than charming, sometimes little more than that. Ariosti’s ‘Voi d’un figlio’ (from Coriolano) is alluring and there’s a ravishing composite version of Bononcini’s ‘Cosi stanco Pellegrino’ (from Crispo), in which a chain of suspensions from two violins is draped over a silky cello obbligato. While all three composers wrote to flatter Senesino’s histrionic and technical gifts, Handel’s orchestrations are reliably more robust. Bates and La Nuova Musica’s bold dynamic arcs and punchy articulation catch the ear, while Zazzo’s firm, fruity voice is applied characterfully to each number, whether swashbuckling or seductive, sounding perhaps too heroic for the delicate proportions of Bononcini’s ‘Per la gloria d’adoravi’ (from Griselda). Anna Picard