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Volume 65 of the Edition is another of those I Can’t Believe It’s Not Vivaldi! jobs. Il Tamerlano appeared as Il Bajazet in 1735 Verona, billed as ‘by various authors’. Strohm reckons that four (yay!) numbers, two now missing, might have been newly composed for the show by the man himself; elsewhere he raided his back catalogue for arias, and bunged in at least 10 by other composers. Five completely missing arias have been ‘reconstructed’ from contemporary music.

The event must have been some kind of canary-fanciers’ AGM: the imported music largely consists of look-at-me arias composed for Farinelli and the star mezzo Vittoria Tesi by the likes of Hasse, Giacomelli and Farinelli’s brother Riccardo Broschi, though sung by other singers in Verona. The tenor Bajazet and mezzo Asteria (Vivaldi’s regular prima donna Anna Girò) sing only Vivaldi’s own music.

Is it all worth it? Well, we know from Handel that this is a fruitful libretto by Agostino Piovene, though here it lacks the death scene – and much besides. It’s hard not to feel Vivaldi was going through the motions: the arias are all decent, without any real showstoppers of either the firework or smoochy variety, but more to the point this sort of cut-and-paste job rarely delivers the emotional kickback you hope for: highly dramatic recit is all very well (and performed with gusto) but the tension it cranks up needs to explode in the aria.

Ottavio Dantone is one of my favourite early musicos, every nuance and bow-stroke fanatically considered, an attention to the actual sound you rarely hear; and his band Accademia Bizantina (a whole eight fiddles this time) extremely involved and exuberant. Good cast, too, and all singing at full tilt. Filippo Mineccia (Tamerlano) sounds a bit hooty under pressure in this mezzo role, Delphine Galou’s Asteria can be rather mannered in the recit, Arianna Vendittelli (Idaspe) tosses off the showpony stuffwith great style, and the mezzo Marina de Liso has a lot of dignity, and pleasantly sober embellishments in her da capos, as Andronico.

Robert Thicknesse Read the full review on Agora Classica

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