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I first heard Almeida’s music in the early 1990s, when René Jacobs recorded his outstanding oratorio, La Giuditta (1726). The notes to that release began, ‘Very little is known about the Portuguese composer Francisco António de Almeida’; sadly, 25 years later, this is still true. He was probably born c.1702 and is presumed to have died in the terrible Lisbon earthquake of 1755. His only opera to survive complete, the delightfully zany La Spinalba (1739), was recorded in 2012 by Marcos Magalhães, who now leads a similar cast, joined by notable countertenor Carlos Mena, in this world première recording of Almeida’s 1729 serenata, Il Trionfo d’Amore, a courtly entertainment described as a scherzo pastorale.

We do know Almeida studied in Rome between 1722 and 1726, and his scores are thoroughly Italian in style. Il Trionfo, for six voices and an orchestra comprising trumpets, horns, oboes, recorders, strings and continuo, follows a typical baroque plot-line involving pairs of star-crossed lovers, but its 12 da capo arias and two duets, beguilingly tuneful and deftly orchestrated, show Almeida’s original touch.

Sopranos Ana Quintans and Joana Seara share the pick of the arias (‘In queste lacrime’ and ‘Leggiadra ninfa’), but they all make agreeable listening. Singing and playing are first class, though ideally I’d have liked a little more pizazz at times!

Graham Lock Read the full review on Agora Classica


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