A due alti

Chamber duets by Bononcini, Steffani, Marcello et al.
Filippo Mineccia, Raffaele Pe, La Venexiana, Claudio Cavina
Glossa GCD 920942

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his interesting CD presents a series of chamber duets for two alto voices from the early 18th century. As the perceptive programme note points out, the chamber duet is a form distinct from any other duet, such as those occurring regularly in cantatas and operas, in that the two parts are not sparring with one another, but are rather two complementary parts of one persona. Many of the composers represented were also writing powerful operatic roles for male altos and sopranos, and so were well acquainted with the technical possibilities as well as possessing a developed sense of drama. Very effectively accompanied by the four continuo instruments of La Venexiana, the two excellent male alto soloists Filippo Mineccia and Raffaele Pe provide something of a masterclass in expressive alto singing, ranging from the powerfully declamatory to the whisperingly intimate. We are currently living in a golden age of male falsetto singing, allowing us once again to appreciate the finest of Baroque music composed for the great castrato singers of the 18th century, and this CD taps into a rich seam of music which reveals a more subtle side of the repertoire than perhaps opera provides. To introduce variety, the performers include two lovely alto solos by Bononcini, while the complex and imaginative duet by the Venetian-born Neapolitan composer Cristofaro Caresana is a revelation, adding to the growing profile of the Neapolitan Baroque scene. As a bonus, the designer of the package, Rosa Tendero, has been allowed to go mad with ‘cut and paste’ on Baroque prints, to hilarious effect.

D. James Ross

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