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GRAMOPHONE (12/2023)
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Reviewer :
Alexandra Coghlan

Beyond – what exactly? Boundaries? Highlights? Expectations? Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orlin´ski’s latest recording wants to test all these limits and more: to offer a journey through the 17th century that’s as much set-list as recital; that takes in a few big hits while also choosing some roads less travelled; to improvise as well as painstakingly revive.


It’s a sprawling project, taking in operatic scenes, cantatas, sonatas, songs and dances – most all but unknown. Orlin´ski is reunited with regular collaborators Il Pomo d’Oro and brilliant researcher Yannis François, who has, as ever, found gold in the archives. It’s a shame that minimal booklet notes tell us so little about Pallavicino, Pollarolo, Moratelli and – breakout star of this recording – Giovanni Cesare Netti. Oh, and if you were hoping for translations of the often rather idiomatic Italian, you’ll need to head off to a dark corner of Warner’s website. It’s a frankly shoddy, penny-pinching way to treat such a lovingly created product: music stripped of context and narrative, pure soundtrack.


But as soundtracks go, it’s a compelling one – a playlist where one song blurs into another, a single continuous arc from graceful beauty (Cavalli’s ‘Incomprensibil nume’ – a premiere recording, astonishingly, from the composer’s Pompeo Magno) to the cynical and bawdy (Netti’s ‘Quanto più la donna invecchia’ – delivered as though several bottles deep).


This is, Orlin´ski argues, the pop music of its day, and you can imagine a crowd going wild for Marini’s ‘La vecchia innamorata’ or Frescobaldi’s ‘Così mi disprezzate?’, nodding along to singersongwriter Barbara Strozzi’s ‘L’amante consolato’ and Caccini’s greatest hit ‘Amarilli’, before chilling out to exquisite Kapsberger and Kerll instrumental numbers.


Orlin´ski’s is a supple, glowing voice, agile, but at its best in purity, youth and pathos. Netti’s clean, simple lines suit him well, as does the opening scene from Monteverdi’s Poppea. In the faster, lighter love songs and patter comedy he has the brightness and energy but lacks the punch of tone to push through the thrilling Pomo d’Oro, who pull focus again and again, whether in Alberto Gaspardo’s trickling harpsichord embellishments, the characterful continuo or the sheen of the string-playing.

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