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In the 18th century, the concert aria, a genre distinct from alternative arias intended for insertion in operas, formed an important part of the repertoire of leading singers. Sophie Bevan here sings eight such arias: four by Mozart, two by Haydn and two of Beethoven’s. Such pieces were frequently planned on a large scale, usually featuring extended texts drawn from existing seria librettos that include a dramatic accompanied recitative preceding an aria, or, in cases such as Haydn’s great ‘Scena di Berenice’, a pair of arias. Unsurprisingly, Mozart was a master of the form, displaying an innate dramatic instinct from an early age, as ‘Oh, temerario Arbace …’, KV 79 (1766) demonstrates.

It is a repertoire that makes considerable demands on its singer, not just because the technical demands of the aria are often considerable – the fearsome cabaletta of the aria ‘Resta, o cara’ from Mozart’s ‘Bella mia fiamma’, KV 528 is a case in point – but the accompanied recitatives call for considerable dramatic input. Sophie Bevan is highly successful on both counts, singing throughout with a gleaming tone and shaping lines with real sensitivity, but equally getting under the skin of the character she is portraying. My one reservation is that I’d have liked rather more ornamentation of repeats, but that is ultimately a matter of taste. As might be imagined, Ian Page provides sympathetic support.

Brian Robins Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2017 - ©Rhinegold Publishing