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GRAMOPHONE (January / 2017)
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Code-barres / Barcode : 3760014193712


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Reviewer: Lindsay Kemp

This is a treasure trove of rare music, much of which must surely be receiving first recordings. Baroque opera has increasingly become an accepted part of the scene in recent years, with forgotten bigname composers such as Caldara, Jommelli and Porpora emerging into the light both in complete works and in individual singers’ recital discs, yet much of the sacred music of these same composers and others still languishes in obscurity. This release, a first recital disc for the French contralto Delphine Galou following some accomplished contributions to Vivaldi operas, addresses the issue by focusing entirely on sacred repertoire, with results both fascinating and revealing. Who, for instance, has ever heard a vocal piece by Torelli? Here we have his Lumi dolente lumi, a Passion Friday cantata that interleaves two powerful recitatives with a pair of expertly shaped and contrasted arias. Who before has encountered the fast-living (and dying) Stradella’s ardently austere setting of lines from the Lamentations (here with Galou chillingly heading each section by barely breathing its Hebrew index letter)? And who knows Giovanni Battista Brevi, whose motet O spiritus angelici enjoys the free-ranging declamatory vigour of the late 17th century? As contrast to that we also have a sizzling aria from Vivaldi’s oratorio Juditha triumphans, plus two glorious examples of mid-18th-century vocal polish in a complacent aria from Jommelli’s oratorio La Betulia liberata and a wonderful display of virtuoso and assured writing for voice in Porpora’s motet In procella sine stella.  

Galou is a perfect singer to introduce us to this music, thanks to an agile and comfortable technique (hear the way she sails effortlessly through her full compass in a single phrase in the first aria of the Porpora), and a voice that sounds like a firm countertenor in the higher register and a contralto in warm strength of the lower reaches. The playing of the Accademia Bizantina – who add a concerto grosso by Gregori and a sinfonia by Caldara to the mix – is keen as mustard and filled with typically telling detail by director Ottavio Dantone. A lovely disc of discoveries.

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