Xavier Sabata : Catharsis
Notwithstanding several spelling errors in the track-listing on Aparté’s back cover, this recital album’s intelligent variety of dramatic atmospheres give Xavier Sabata and Armonia Atenea a vivid workout. ‘Alza al ciel pianto orgogliosa’ from Orlandini’s Adelaide (Venice, 1729) is performed with steely malevolence. There is a fascinating comparison between two settings of Zeno’s libretto Griselda: the contrapuntal minor-key strings and melodic voice part in ‘Cara sposa’ from Conti’s version (Vienna, 1725) is a real gem of pathos-laden beauty, whereas ‘Vorresti col tuo pianto’ from Torri’s version (Munich, 1723) has acerbic energy.
The extreme velocity of Petrou’s direction and Sabata’s exaggerated singing in Vivaldi’s ‘Gelido in ogni vena’ labours the point – a little less could have been considerably more (this alto transposition is apparently from the 1730 Prague opera Argippo). The opening scene of Handel’s Admeto (1727) and the prison scene from Ariosti’s Coriolano (1723) are given intensive interpretations in which the loud and soft contrasts during accompanied recitatives are accordingly abrasive or deeply sentimental – an approach that risks diminishing nuanced coherence – but the ensuing slow arias are each articulated tenderly. Oboes and horns contribute subtly to the rococo style of Hasse’s depiction of the newly converted St Augustine (Dresden, 1750), and there is a lilting gracefulness in the title-hero’s ‘Ah, frenate il pianto imbelle’ from Caldara’s Temistocle (Vienna, 1736).
The music-making is never devoid of interest and richness, but it is at its most persuasive when the performers let the music speak more naturally.