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The mention of ‘castrato superstars’ usually leads one to think of the 18th-century figures of Farinelli, Senesino and Caffarelli; however, Raffaele Pè has created a biography in music of one of their distinguished predecessors.

Gualberto Magli was a student of Giulio Caccini and took part in the first performance of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, in 1607. The disc opens with an extended selection from that opera, with an aria from each of the roles Magli is known to have played (La Musica, La Speranza and Proserpina). This is an ideal showcase for the virtuosity and dexterity of Pè’s voice, the three characters placing very different demands on the singer, a challenge to which he rises admirably; Chiara Granata on triple harp and David Miller on theorbo provide such a richness of sound that one never misses the full orchestra.

The remainder of the tracks are solo pieces from regions in which Magli is known (or suspected) to have travelled; thus songs by Caccini padre and figlia sit alongside works in the Italian style by the German Johann Nauwach and music from members of the Neapolitan school of composition, including D’India, Montesardo and Trabaci. Alessandro Ciccolini’s 2013 setting of Petrarch’s ‘Solo e pensoso’ is entirely in keeping with its companion pieces, and is a fitting way to round off this outstanding recital.

Adrian Horsewood Read the full review on Agora Classica


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Early Music Today, 2014 - ©Rhinegold Publishing