Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Works by JS Bach, Bellini, Caldara, Duruflé, Fauré, Franck, Giacomelli, Handel, Mascagni, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Persiani, Rossini, Vinci & Vivaldi
PERFORMER: Cecilia Bartoli (mezzo-soprano), Juan Diego Flórez, Luciano Pavarotti (tenor), Bryn Terfel (bass-baritone); Maxim Vengerov (violin); Cinzia Maurizio (harp), Luigi Piovano (cello), Daniele Rossi (organ); various orchestras and conductors
CATALOGUE NO: 478 2249


Not much is new on this two-disc compilation drawn from various collections and recordings since 1994, but two performances are apparently new to CD – the ultra-rare aria from Leonardo Vinci’s 1728 Medo, and this particular version of Rosina’s famous ‘Una voce poco fa’ from The Barber of Seville. Unusual in the latter is the relatively slow pace Cecilia Bartoli and her conductor Adam Fischer adopt for the aria’s main section, though as with everything here she attacks the music with punch and personality. 

The pieces have been well chosen to demonstrate her extraordinary range. Beginning as a Rossini specialist, Bartoli has gone on to explore many of his Baroque or Classical predecessors, as finely honed and imaginatively sung pieces by the relatively forgotten Caldara and Giacomelli, as well as more familiar Handel, Vivaldi and Mozart, attest.


Reaching forward into the Romantic era, she aspires to what are usually viewed as soprano roles, with convincing extracts from Bellini’s Norma and La sonnambula, plus Mendelssohn’s concert aria, ‘Infelice!’ Even if she plays second fiddle to Pavarotti in the Cherry Duet from Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz, she distinguishes herself here, too, though he sounds past his best. The selection also cleverly avoids the more mannered singing that has marred other later recordings. George Hall