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The castrato Farinelli stood out for his astonishing virtuosity, purity and strength. Philippe Jaroussky is one of today’s sweetest-toned counter tenors, and though the voice is rather smaller than Farinelli’s must have been, there is nothing half- hearted about this disc. Featuring some of the most challenging arias written for Farinelli by his teacher Nicola Porpora, it’s a selection designed to showcase every aspect of Jaroussky’s technique. They are lovely pieces, with something of Gluck in their restrained beauty and translucency, for example the gorgeous final lament from Orfeo, its endless winding melody given here in a terrific, controlled performance by Jaroussky. There are excerpts from Polifemo, which went head-to-head with Handel’s Ariodante in London in 1735 (Handel saw offthe challenge, though Porpora’s opera is rather good). Cecilia Bartoli joins in for a couple of sweet duets, there is a jaunty duel-cadenza with a trumpet, an ostentatious messa di voce, a handsome booklet and some neat playing of this nicely orchestrated music by the Venice Baroque Orchestra under Andrea Marcon. This is a treat of unheard arias (with seven world premiere recordings), even for those of us sometimes resistant to the charms of the falsettist.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica


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