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In the early 1700s, Venice was a hotbed of opera: it’s believed around 450 different productions were staged in the city between 1701 and 1745. From this treasure trove, Max Emanuel Cencic has compiled a recital disc of 11 arias by seven composers—one apiece by Caldara, Porta, Gasparini, Giacomelli, Albinoni and Sellitto, plus five by Vivaldi (though two are doubtful attributions). This bias towards the Red Priest is disappointing; his arias are arguably the least remarkable on the disc, with a captivating ‘Quel rossor che in volto miri’ from Montezuma the only exception. The real gems here are Caldara’s fiery ‘Barbaro non comprendo’ and Albinoni’s lovely ‘Pianta bella, pianta amata’, with its haunting viola obbligato. (Oddly, all the arias chosen are scored only for strings and continuo.) Cencic sings with impressive bravura, though for me his ultra-smooth tone lacks those nuances of timbre that can give a voice real expressive power.

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Early Music Today, 2013 - ©Rhinegold Publishing