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American Record Guide: (05/2017) 
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Reviewer: John W. Barker

From the later 17th Century through the 18th, the vocal duet was the most popular counterpart to the trio sonata in instrumental music. The solo cantata was, of course, a widely cultivated form in itself (and sometime in duet form for theatrical effects). But patrons, performers, and audiences could not get enough of the more compact duets, for mostly high voices with continuo. Italian texts set by Italian composers were the heart of the chamber duet literature. A potent survey of the idiom is given here. There are 7 duets (plus an aria): 3 by the acknowledged master of the form, Agostino Steffani (1654-1728), and 2 each by Antonio Lotti (1666-1740) and Giovanni Bononcini (1670- 1747). These works vary from two sections to six. Many alternate duet sections with solo ones, sometimes reaching the scope of dialog cantatas. Their music was obviously intended for experienced singers. There is a lot of fine melodic writing here—I particularly admired Lotti’s duets. Sara Mingardo is the “star” singer here, but she sings in only three of the duets. She is also allowed the exceptional item here, an aria from an early Venetian opera by the obscure Francesco Lucio (1628-58)—a lovely ciacona that shows off her rich contralto artistry handsomely. There are seven other singers: sopranos Lisa Castrignano, Giorgia Cinciripi, and Silvia Frigato; mezzo-sopranos Loriana Castellano, Lea Desandre, and Lucia Napoli; contralto Francesca Billotti. They do some duets with Mingardo but also with each other. That makes for a nice variety of vocal colors, and all sing beautifully. The recorded sound is also beautiful. The booklet carries admirably thorough notes by the distinguished Michael Talbot and full texts with translations. I just wish that one of Handel’s quite individual vocal duets might have been included, for contrast from a non-Italian. But certainly, for any collector of Baroque vocal music, this release is a valuable introduction to, and sampler of, the chamber duet.

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