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GRAMOPHONE (11 /2013)
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Reviewer: David Vickers

Countertenor Jaroussky ... chart the legacy of the great Farinelli

Philippe Jaroussky’s conceptual recital unveils Porpora’s music for his pupil Farinelli. Frédéric Delaméa provides a fascinating essay about the overlapping careers of the star castrato and his singing teacher but the lack of information about the dramatic qualities of the arias means that an opportunity is missed to advocate Porpora’s arias as something more than flashy concert pieces. Most are drawn from the period when Porpora and Farinelli both worked in London for the Opera of the Nobility (1734-36). The only music familiar from several previous recordings is the gorgeous slow aria ‘Alto Giove’ from Polifemo (which competed directly with Handel’s Ariodante in 1735); Jaroussky and the Venice Baroque Orchestra give a subtly nuanced performance of the original manuscript version which includes passages that Porpora cut but it is not explained that this scene is the murdered Acis’s magical transformation into a bubbling fountain (knowledge that enlightens our appreciation of Porpora’s sublime dramatic music). Likewise, there is no explanation that ‘Sente del mio martir’ from the pasticcio Orfeo shows the title-hero lamenting his unrequited love for Euridice to an audience of trees, beasts and birds.


Jaroussky’s rapid passagework in quick heroic arias is precise (the spectacular ‘Nell’attendere il mio bene’ from Polifemo) and Cecilia Bartoli pops up for a couple of love duets but the outstanding moments are slow arias that could have been tailor-made for Jaroussky’s sweetly graceful melodic singing (‘Le limpid’onde’ from Ifigenia in Aulide, featuring the pastoral delicacy of horns, flutes and oboes). Andrea Marcon and the Venice Baroque Orchestra produce admirable sentimental finesse or gutsy brilliance as required. Jaroussky did some research himself – although his endearing foreword gets some facts wrong, such as the date of Vinci’s death (not 1744 but 1730), and Farinelli’s letter to Metastasio in 1759 lamenting the elderly Porpora’s impoverishment is misinterpreted (the composer had not died, but lived until 1768).

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