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GRAMOPHONE (October / 2017)
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Reviewer: David Vickers

Giovanni Alberto Ristori (c1692-1753) came to prominence composing operas, such as a setting of Orlando furioso (1713) produced in Venice by Vivaldi. Thereafter he served as organist, harpsichordist and music teacher at the Dresden/Polish court for nearly 40 years. Most of his music was  lost in bombardments of Dresden in 1760 and 1944 but meritorious fluency and expressive word-painting are revealed in three cantatas on poems written by Princess Maria Antonia (who married Prince Friedrich Christian of Saxony in 1747).

Lavinia a Turno and Didone abbandonata (both 1748) were inspired by tragic episodes from Virgil’s Aeneid that recount grieving or forsaken lovers in extremis. The first performances were sung by the crown princess herself, who was clearly no shrinking violet; she was a member of the Arcadian Academy, corresponded with Metastasio about her poetry (which he admired), and must have been a decent soprano. María Savastano shrewdly balances lyrical elegance and dramatic anguish in numerous extremely dynamic accompanied recitatives and theatrically charged arias; the singing is uniformly passionate in tone and technically excellent, even if a little more limpid gracefulness might have increased the potential charm of these cantatas.

 Violinist Johannes Pramsohler directs Ensemble Diderot with lively attention to detail in the melodramatic accompanied recitatives that depict the abandoned Dido’s oscillations between heartbreak, fury and suicide, and in contrasting arias Savastano navigates several difficult passages of extended coloratura with impressive skill. As an afterpiece, an oboe concerto presumably written for the Italian virtuoso Antonio Besozzi (employed at Dresden from 1739) is played by soloist Jon Olaberria with sophisticated charm and spontaneity.

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