Albinoni: Opera Arias and Instrumental Music

Ana Quintans soprano, Concerto de’ Cavalieri, Marcello Di Lisa
deutsche harmonia mundi 8 88750 81922 2
Arias from Ardelinda,* L’Eraclea,* Le gare generose,* L’inconstanza schernita,* La Statira; sinfonia from Zenobia, Concerto a cinque op. 5/5, Sinfonia Si7 in g
*=world premiere recordings

I have mixed emotions about this recording. I was moved to tears by Quintans as Jonathan in Charpentier’s sacred opera at the Edinburgh Festival a few years ago, but was not immediately taken by her interpretations of Albinoni’s unsurprisingly glorious music for voice. Repeated listening brought a change of heart; maybe the more Italian’s more virtuosic but (broadly speaking) less emotive writing was the “problem”? But hearing the disc several times actually convinced me that it was the overall approach to the music that niggled me most – the fast music felt uncomfortably hurried, especially by the time we reached the minutely manicured final cadences (complete with obligatory delay before the placing of the very last chord!) Some arias are accompanied by full orchestra (44221 + oboes – without bassoon – trumpets and drums, flute, plucker and harpsichord), while others are taken by a pair of solo violins – and very nicely, too. Interspersed with the vocal items are three instrumental pieces; here again, the outer movements go hell for leather, while the slower ones were dominated by harpsichord links and flourishes. The booklet note reads like a music dictionary article on “Albinoni and the theatre”, telling us all about the works and the venues where they were performed but nothing at all about the individual items; while that is printed in four languages, the poetic texts are given (on separate pages) in Italian and English only. It is only in the closing credits that one discovers that the flute obbligato (written “in the pure and fascinating Venetian tradition”) was reconstructed (to what extent is not shared with us!) by Guido Morini. To summarize, some delightful music and an elegant, virtuosic singer, but perhaps worthy of a less histrionic approach?

Brian Clark