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International Record Review - (01//2015)
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Reviewer:  John T Hughes

The note writer seems obsessed by the instrumentation in the arias, for he says nothing about the vocal part and makes no attempt to place each piece in context in the respective opera. Is that what listeners want for a disc of rare works? As the texts of the arias are included, with English translations, presumably the story of cach opera is known. Why keep secret?


The CD is headed 'Vienna 1709. Opera arias for soprano and viol', but do not think that only two people are making music, for Ensemble Tourbillon consists of three violas da gamba, theorbo, Baroque guitar, two Baroque oboes, chalumeau, organ and harpsichord. On a viola da gamba by Joachim Tielke of Hamburg from 1697, Petr Wagner plays the solos. He also directs the ensemble.


As the note writer, Robert Rawson, treats these pieces as opera arias for viol, ignoring the reference to soprano, one must listen without being able to link each aria to what is happening. It is with the sole aria by Pietro Baldassari that Hana Blažikovŕ begins her recital: a slow piece that nevertheless demands leaps and short runs for the voice as the character in the opera muses on 'The joy of a kindly face', elegantly performed . The track list places Baldassari as having been born before 1690 and dying after 1768, which does not quite align with Rawson's dates of pre1672 and post‑1747.


The first Ariosti aria is that of Peace from Marte placato, about 'the cruel one' behaving proudly and falsely. It is not the bravura aria that one might expect. The voice‑part is less testing than that of the viola da,gamba, but Blažikovŕ and Wagner work well together, with her shining tone sitting with the warmth of the instrument. Placidia's aria in praise of the violet opens in sprightly manner for the gamba, which plays a bigger part than the voice. The last Ariosti excerpt is from an oratorio, Le profezie d'Eliseo, in which the singer tells the children not to cry for she will do it for them. It is a slow and solemn da capo aria, which Blažikovŕ sings with clean and well‑placed tone.


Johann joseph Fux is represented by four arias, of which 'So' che piace' is also from an oratorio and also slow‑moving, with long phrases for voice and gamba, until at about three minutes in the voice becomes fuller, the tempo still very slow. Blažikovŕ's steady line is just right. 'l feel in my heart a sweet pain which appears to be love but is not.' Those are the words of Fux's 'Sento nel cote': at 7’45" it is 30 seconds longer than the previous piece but moves more quickly. Although there are no dazzling roulades, the music needs a voice which has flexibility, which Blažikovŕ supplies with no problem, and Wagner's viol skips along. Two Fux arias remain. In 'Non sdegnar', the chalumeau enters the field, played by Rudolf Tutz. It provides an atractive sound. Blažikovŕ is again pure‑toned, but her enunciation is affected somewhat by the acoustic. Dafne sings that she is no longer a nymph and that death makes her immortal. The voice is well projected in another aria that is on the slow side.


As may seem obvions, I played the disc by grouping the arias composer by composer, although they are not arranged as such, being spread over the recital. There has been a preponderance of slowish music so far and I assumed (and hoped) that Bononcini would introduce more liveliness, but it does not come in Eurilla's 'Amante ozioso', which begins 'The idle lover never has joy', though the artists give a good performance. One aria is left, and as it starts with the words 'I shall call my life happy' (E pur le mie rovine') hope remains ... and to an extent is dashed. It is not exactly slow, but it does not require Blažikovŕ to dash up and down the scales. She sings it clearly and it is a pleasing piece. The one non‑vocal item is the Sinfonia from Ariosti's Marte placato, a pretty piece enhanced by the charming sound of two oboes. Having so many slow arias makes me wonder if any quick ones were written for this combination of voice and viol. Play the CD a few arias at a time.


… reverberation does spread Blažikovŕ's tone and muffles the clarity of her words. Again I wonder where the singer was positioned, for the sound of the viola da gamba is very clear. 

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