Cecilia Bartoli – St. Petersburg

I Barocchisti cond. Diego Fasolis

DECCA 478 6767

reviewed by Neville Cohn

In a sumptuous offering on the DECCA label, Cecilia Bartoli, prima donna assoluta, brings to us repertoire which until very recently had faded into just about total obscurity. It is fascinating fare, and its resurrection of the hitherto vanished and forgotten is thoroughly warranted, especially when
sung by one the great voices of the century.

BartoliHave you heard of Hermann Raupach or Francesco Domenico Araia – or Domenico Dall’oglio?

You haven’t? Well, here’s a rare opportunity to listen to some of the music of these gentlemen ­and presented by a phenomenal vocalist.

Bartoli, singing in Russian, is at her dazzling best in an aria from Raupach’s
Hercules. Busy, energetic strings with brass fanfare punctuations form the background against  which a flawless vocal line is traced, a performance that sets the pulse racing.

In El placido il mare, Bartoli’s singing is the vocal equivalent of super virtuoso pianist Vladimir Horowitz in this exultant, dramatic offering.

Who was Raupach? German­born, he once met Mozart and the two improvised at the harpsichord.

He also worked for years at the Imperial Russian Court in St Petersburg where he wrote no fewer  than 14 operas. He was a favourite of Tsarina Elizaveta Petrovna.

Another gem is the prelude to La clemenza di Tito – not the one by Mozart but Dall’oglio and Madonis. Gently reflective flute playing by Marco Brolli and Bartoli’s wondrous vocal ornamentation make musical gold of this.

As well, there’s an upbeat, emphatically rhythmical march in which I Barocchisti ensemble comes into its own.

Bartoli is joined by soprano Silvana Bazzoni and RSI radiotelevisione svizzera chorus in an all- stops­out, celebratory account of A noi vivi, donna eccelsa from Manfredini’s Carlo Magno

DECCA is on to a winner here. It’s not only the singing – which is beyond reproach – but the

overall presentation. The liner notes are in the form of a small hardcover book with many pages of fascinating music history as well as insights into the lives of three of Russia’s most formidable tsarinas. It’s lavishly illustrated, too.

If you purchase only one compact disc this year, then let it be this. It would make the perfect Xmas gift for anyone interested in vocal artistry at the very highest level.

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