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The Crown – Heroic Arias for Senesino (Randall Scotting)

Randall Scotting (countertenor); Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Laurence Cummings (Signum Classics)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

The Crown – Heroic Arias for Senesino
Arias by Ariosti, Bononcini, Giacomelli, Giaj, Lotti, Orlandini and Ristori
Randall Scotting (countertenor); Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Laurence Cummings
Signum Classics SIGCD719   74:23 mins

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In this debut solo album, seven years in the making, countertenor Randall Scotting lets loose a ravishing vocalism. Featuring arias for superstar castrato Senesino, whose fame derived from now-forgotten works, Scotting brings us obscure and often previously unrecorded music, eschewing Senesino’s by now overly familiar Handel arias.

Tracks span not just Senesino’s career, but also the castrato’s unique line in heroes. Offstage something of a tyrant, on it Senesino was a complex artist, reshaping from one aria to the next the valiant-leader characters in which he excelled. Scotting builds on this legacy by applying deep colours, muscular core, and baritonal chest register to probe a huge range of feelings. In bravura numbers he pushes tempos to fever pitch, egging the other performers on, often through thrilling roulades. On slower tracks, Scotting’s messa da voce, the nuanced crescendo/decrescendo on a sustained pitch for which Senesino was celebrated, is mesmerising in music about love and despair alike. Scotting’s sensational 2019 Covent Garden debut showed off his superb acting, and this recording captures his dramatic artistry as he weights specific words in recitative as well as aria. Scotting’s cadenzas and diminutions tend to be reserved, following Senesino’s creed of taste before extravagance. The band might have offered more pushback. Continuo realisations are plush, with director Laurence Cummings spinning ravishing melodies from his figured bass, but obbligato parts when repeated are largely unadorned. It seems out of character: the virtuosos accompanying Senesino surely jousted with him for some attention. This recording is however its singer’s showcase, and as such, it is commanding.

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Berta Joncus