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This account of Henry Purcell’s Dido and Æneas by Baroque orchestra La Risonanza under Fabio Bonizzoni is a hotch-potch but the CD’s other work, Eccles’s and Finger’s Venus and Mars, a revelation.

Instrumentally, the recording is a delight for its weightless string playing, tight, infectious rhythms and expressive idiomatic ornamentation. The chorus too, Coro Costanzo Porta, sings with bright tone, perfect intonation, shapely line, rhythmic discipline and meaningful dynamics, but attempts to pronounce the English as spurious research tells them was appropriate for Restoration England. This is hard enough for native speakers to achieve convincingly, but for mother-tongue Italians the task is almost hopeless. Everyone sounds like a West Country farmer although it is worse with the more exposed soloists. Soprano Raffaella Milanesi sings Dido with sustained romantic heaviness and vibrato not really in keeping with the gut strings, but her deeply tragic Lament is affecting over an ultra-slow pace. Richard Helm’s Æneas captures the feeble wretch that the original Chelsea girls would have scoffed at, but the pick is Stefanie True’s Belinda whose shiny straight tone thrills despite the warped enunciation. They tried too hard. The seductive charm of the natural foreign tongue in English was missed.

John Eccles and Gottfried Finger were London theatre composers rivalling Purcell. Their Love of Venus and Mars is a short delightful masque of 1680 in which the muses compare in simple, touching melodies the stratagems of Venus and Mars, love and war, to subdue each other. The booklet omits to say who is singing what, though the listener can guess.

Rick Jones Read the full review on Agora Classica


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Early Music Today, 2017 - ©Rhinegold Publishing