Venetian musical taste in the eighteenth-century is explored in this
racy disc. The operatic burgeoning in Rome and Naples challenged
Venice’s predominant position and it’s not solely to Vivaldi
that counter-tenor Max Emanuel Cencic turns. A number of lesser-known
contemporaries, either themselves Venetian or with important links to the
city, are included.
Inevitably the recital is constructed on the fast-slow principle
with coloratura virtuosity usually followed by rich, warm slower music. This
brings variety but also just a hint of predictability into performances that
are largely extrovert. Vivaldi, or works long ascribed to him, makes up just
under half of the programme. We also hear from Caldara, whose Barbaro non
is a formidably direct and brilliant example of the genre, its
inherent instability adding terrifically to the sense of pervasive drama.
These qualities find responsive partners in Cencic and Riccardo
Minasi’s Il Pomo d’Oro, which is not a bashful band. Giovanni
Porta’s 1716 aria Mormorando quelle fronde
is a much more
expansive mid-tempo number, and here Cencic fines his tone to excellent
effect, whilst ensuring that it retains body throughout its compass - no
Francesco Gasparini’s contribution is sparely accompanied,
whilst Geminiano Giacomeli’s aria from his Merope
from Cencic some formidable examples of his chest voice which flares like a
mezzo in a thoroughly theatrical and convincing way; this is one of the most
coruscatingly operatic of these selections. Albinoni contributes a lovely
aria with a dappled descending line and it helps grant expressive richness
to the programme - not inappropriately it’s from a sereneta, not an
Vivaldi’s A’ piedi miei svenato
finds soloist and
orchestra on fine, cutting form: the counter-tenor’s attaca
torrid, his navigation of the difficult divisions full of haughty command.
The aria from Agrippo
is a fast one but Cencic insinuates some canny
rubati and this depends on razor-sharp ensemble and a real amount of
preparation. Mi vuoi tradir, lo so
from La verità in
draws some tempestuous string articulation from the orchestra.
Slow but intense, Quel rossor che in volto miri
is another example of
Cencic reveals here just why he is so suited to this; his voice is
virtuosic but full of colour, his command of divisions sounds absolute, and
his theatrical musicality is everywhere apparent.