Andreas Scholl - Arias for Senesino

An enterprising programme of music composed for the 18th century’s star castrato

Author: 
Richard Wigmore

Andreas Scholl - Arias for Senesino

  • Flavio, Re di Longobardi, Bel Contento
  • Rodelinda, ~, Pompe vane di morte!
  • Rodelinda, ~, Dove sei, amato bene!
  • Astarto, Stelle ingrate
  • Engelberta, Selvagge amenita
  • Teofane, Discordi pensier
  • Carlo re d'Allemagna, Del Ciel su sui giri
  • Ascanio, ovvero (Gli) odi delusi dal sangue, Fosti caro
  • Giulio Cesare, 'Julius Caesar', ~, Dall' ondoso periglio
  • Giulio Cesare, 'Julius Caesar', ~, Aure, deh, per pietà
  • Giulio Cesare, 'Julius Caesar', Al lampo dell'armi
  • Rinaldo, ~, Cara sposa
  • (Il) trionfo di Camilla, Va'per le vene il sangue

For his colleagues, Handel included, Senesino (‘the Sienese’) seems to have been the star castrato from hell: vain, insufferably arrogant, likely to throw a tantrum at the slightest provocation. But for three decades he enraptured audiences in Italy and London with the beauty of his voice (‘powerful, clear, equal and sweet’, according to Johann Quantz) and his mastery of both the ‘pathetic’ and the brilliant styles. Quantz’s description could apply just as well to the far more amenable Andreas Scholl, who has come up with an enterprising programme of arias associated with the temperamental 18th-century castrato, several recorded for the first time. If the Handel items – all well known apart from an elegant minuet aria from Flavio – contain most of the best tunes, there are many delights elsewhere, including an exultant Scarlatti aria complete with swashbuckling horns, two tenderly expressive numbers by Lotti and a virtuoso ‘rage’ aria (‘Stelle ingrate’) by Albinoni calculated to bring the house down.

Scholl sings this stunningly, the reams of coloratura dazzlingly even yet never mechanical, and delivered on seemingly inexhaustible reserves of breath. Another highlight is his joyous singing of the Scarlatti aria, where he gives full vent to his resonant middle register. But it is the slower, soulful numbers that remain longest in the memory, above all ‘Cara sposa’ and the scenas from Rodelinda and Giulio Cesare. In the accompanied recitatives Scholl reveals an eloquence of declamation for which Senesino was famed, while the arias combine liquid, subtly varied tone (including gentle, flutey high notes that recall Alfred Deller) with a command of the long Handelian line. Scholl imaginatively uses the da capos (discreetly ornamented) to enhance the expression, and proves a master of the technique of messa di voce – gradually swelling and then softening on long sustained notes – that was specially prized in the 18th century. The grace and intensity of the singing are matched by vivid accompaniments from Ottavio Dantone’s period band, and caught in a sympathetic acoustic. Enthusiastically recommended, and not just to paid-up Scholl fans.

Gramophone Subscriptions

From£67/year

Gramophone Print

Gramophone Print

no Digital Edition
no Digital Archive
no Reviews Database
no Events & Offers
From£67/year
Subscribe
From£67/year

Gramophone Reviews

Gramophone Reviews

no Print Edition
no Digital Edition
no Digital Archive
no Events & Offers
From£67/year
Subscribe
From£67/year

Gramophone Digital Edition

Gramophone Digital Edition

no Print Edition
no Reviews Database
no Events & Offers
From£67/year
Subscribe

If you are a library, university or other organisation that would be interested in an institutional subscription to Gramophone please click here for further information.

© MA Business and Leisure Ltd. 2018