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GRAMOPHONE (07/2015)
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Reviewer: David Vickers


Never judge a book by its cover. Mind you, the faux tattoos on Blandine Staskiewicz’s bare shoulders proclaiming ‘Tempesta – Handel & Vivaldi’ make one of the cringeworthiest album covers I’ve seen in a long while (perhaps the lack of available skin explains why Pergolesi and Porpora aren’t mentioned). Quite apart from that, does the world really need yet another ‘Ombra mai fù’? Once past the outward impression, you hear Alexis Kossenko and his orchestra Les Ambassadeurs offering superb value as always. ‘Spesso di nubi cinto’ from Porpora’s Carlo il Calvo launches proceedings thrillingly, with imaginative orchestral phrasing allied to Staskiewicz’s impressively precise and limpidly shaped coloratura, and there’s more virtuoso volatility in ‘Torbido in volto’ from Pergolesi’s Adriano in Siria.


Staskiewicz sensibly alternates these stormy arias with a judicious assortment of slow ones; there is gentler melodic sensitivity during Vivaldi’s ‘Sovvente il sole’ from the pasticcio Andromeda liberata, in which vocal serenity is complemented sympathetically by solo violinist Zefira Valova (who applies a few surprising chromatic embellishments fleetingly). A self-indulgently luxuriant ‘Ombra mai fù’ almost justifies its existence between the charismatic liveliness of ‘Brilla nell’alma’ from Handel’s Alessandro and the lively rustic wittiness of ‘Io son fra l’onde’ from Vivaldi’s La verità in cimento (which features Kossenko’s vivacious piccolo obbligato). The tormented soliloquy ‘Pensieri’ from Handel’s Agrippina and the lovely cavatina ‘Quando mai spietata sorte’ from Radamisto both feature Gilles Vanssons’s poignant oboe-playing. I do not always sense tangible engagement with dramatic characterisations, but the nuanced vibrancy from Staskiewicz and Les Ambassadeurs in the tempestuous ‘Siam navi all’onde algenti’ from Vivaldi’s Olimpiade is irresistible.



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