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GRAMOPHONE (07/2021)
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Challenge Classics

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Reviewer: David Vickers

Giuseppe Maria Boschi’s stage career included stints in Venice, Vienna, Bologna, Turin, Dresden and London, and he performed more than 80 different roles – 13 of them in Handel’s operas for the Royal Academy of Music from 1720 until its collapse in 1728. Sergio Foresti and Abchordis Ensemble’s intelligent selection navigates a course through contrasting instrumentations, keys, moods and composers.

Foresti’s open and supple singing roars with impressive élan in Argante’s ‘Sibilar gli angui d’Aletto’ (Handel’s Rinaldo), its braying trumpets and serpent-like violin lines judged perfectly. The emperor Constantine’s guilt-racked ‘Vostre imagini’ (Heinichen’s Flavio Crispo) features Foresti’s lyrical anguish in tandem with sorrowful violins. Rambaldo’s ‘Timor e speme’ (Giovanni Bononcini’s Griselda) is an extrovert expression of hope, whereas the pirate Emireno’s ‘Del minacciar del vento’ (Lotti’s Teofane) is a defiant tour de force featuring animated rushing strings and extrovert oboes. Sesto Furio’s ‘Quella calma che a noi viene’ (Ariosti’s Coriolano), presents lively bassoons, cello obbligato and cascading violins. Demetrio’s valorous ‘Rimbomba la tromba’ (Antonio Bononcini’s La presa di Tebe) pits Foresti’s virtuoso wide leaps and coloratura against a pair of stratospheric trumpets. The slow lament ‘Cieco amor’ (Giovanni Bononcini’s Etearco) features rich string harmonies and long spinning melodic vocal lines. Massimo’s treacherous cruelty to his daughter is conveyed to brilliant effect in ‘Va’ dal furor portata’ (Porpora’s Ezio). Cosroe’s remorse at having ordered the execution of his innocent son in ‘Gelido in ogni vena’ (Handel’s Siroe) is performed by Foresti and gently contrapuntal strings with beguiling sincerity. ‘Su fieri guerrieri’ (Ariosti’s Vespasiano) is an extrovert battle-cry that imitates trumpet fanfares (an effect supercharged by over-active guitar strumming). Darete’s reassurance of the inconsolable Andromaca in ‘Bella non piangere’ (Lotti’s Polidoro) is sung tenderly, whereas the villain Artabano’s selfinterested counsel mingles agility and pomposity in ‘So ben che nel tuo petto’ (Orlandini’s Arsace). There is a judicious contrast between hot-headed outer sections and an unexpected slower middle section with plaintive oboe in Porsenna’s desperate ‘Volate più dei venti’ (Handel’s Muzio Scevola). The illuminating survey concludes with Isdegarde’s ‘Al suon delle trombe’ (Caldara’s L’inimico generoso), a flamboyant call to arms with trumpets and drums to the forefront.

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