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GRAMOPHONE (07/2017)
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Reviewer: Lindsay Kemp

The Swiss-American countertenor Terry Wey has taken roles in a number of Baroque opera recordings, as well as some Bach Passions and cantatas, but this is the first real recital disc of his own. Happily there is more to it than favourite Handel; this selection of arias associated with the castrato singer Antonio Maria Bernacchi (1685-1756) claims seven premiere recordings among its 15 tracks – not surprising when you consider that the composers include Pietro Torri, Domenico Sarro and Carlo Francesco Pollarolo, who even to most Baroque opera enthusiasts are little more than names in books.

Every one is a good find, though. Bernacchi was renowned as one of the most technically dazzling singers of his day, and there is much bravura passagework in Torri’s ‘Pace e guerra’, Handel’s ‘Furibondo spira il vento’, Pollarolo’s ‘Già mi par’ and Gasparini’s terrific, horn-chortling ‘A dispetto’. Wey dashes them off with vigour and flair, and is also equal to the more poised virtuosity to be heard in the relaxed soaring lines of Vinci’s ‘Taci o di morte’ and the long rises and falls of Torri’s ‘Parto, non ho costanza’, as well as the galant elegance of Torri’s ‘La cara tua favella’ and the Hasse duet (in which he is joined by soprano Vivica Genaux). The programme also features an enjoyable trio written by Torri for a one-off celebrity ensemble of Bernacchi, Farinelli (here represented by Valer Sabadus) and Vittoria Tesi (Genaux). It would be futile, however, to pretend that the two slower Handel arias do not easily surpass all of these in terms of deeper emotion and beauty. Bernacchi was often described as lacking in this area but Wey’s lyrical and vocal grace do them full justice.

There is keen and incisive accompaniment from the Bach Consort Wien, putting all their feet in the right place under Rubén Dubrovsky, while the theatre acoustic of the Vienna Kammeroper gives it all the right clear-cut atmosphere.

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