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J.C. Bach: Arias - La Dolce Fiamma / Philippe Jaroussky


Release Date: 01/12/2010 
Label:  Virgin Classics   Catalog #: 94564  
Composer:  Johann Christian Bach
Performer:  Philippe Jaroussky
Conductor:  Jérémie Rhorer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Cercle de l'Harmonie
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews



J. C. BACH La clemenza di Scipione: Pugna il guerriero. Artaserse: Perché tarda è mai la morte; Vo solcando un mar crudele. Orfeo ed Euridice: La legge accetto. Adriana in Siria: Cara, la dolce fiamma; Tutti nemici, e rei. Carattaco: Perfida Cartismandua! … Fra l’orrore. Temistocle: Ch’io parta? Read more class="ARIAL12b">Concert arias: Sentimi, non partir … Al mio bene; Ebben si vada … Io ti lascio Philippe Jaroussky (ct); Le Cercle de l’Harmonie; Jérémie Rhorer, cond VIRGIN 94564 (63:08 Text and Translation)


Johann Christian—the “London” Bach—had, by most accounts, the warmest and most outgoing personality among J. S.’s many sons, a trait that endeared him to all who met him. He was also a formidable harpsichordist (which of Bach’s kids wasn’t?) and an excellent improviser. But he was also, by his own admission, an uneven and sometimes disappointing composer. Despite studying with his father, and later with his brother Carl Philipp Emmanuel, he never quite achieved the depth of craft that sustained them when inspiration was lacking, but relied heavily on inspiration that didn’t always come. By comparison with many of the Italian opera composers with whom he vied for commissions, his music certainly had a consistency theirs lacked, but in the modern light of day it doesn’t always shine forth with brilliance.


Philippe Jaroussky has chosen here a program of J. C. Bach arias written for various castrati (Gaetano Guadagni, Ferdinando Tenducci, Giuseppe Coppola, etc.) in the London of the 1760s and 1770s. Some of the music is decidedly ordinary and prosaic, but—as usual—the best of it is very good indeed. Jaroussky leads off with an outstanding dramatic aria, “Pugna il guerriero” from La clemenza di Scipione, but after that the majority of the opera arias that follow, from Orfeo ed Euridice, Adriano in Siria, and Carattaco, struck me as rather ho-hum. Quite outstanding, however, were “Vo solcando un mar crudele” from Artaserse and “Ch’io parta?” from Temistocle, as well as the two concert arias, all of which display quite clearly why his music was so greatly admired by Haydn and Mozart. Ingenious instrumental writing, dramatically paced even when the tempos are not terribly fast, supports a melodic line that well reflects the text to which it is set and sustains the mood of the work. At moments like this, it’s quite easy to say, as his friend Mozart did when he died in 1782, “What a loss to music!” A loss indeed. Charles Burney, a harsh critic in those days, raved in his review of Bach’s Orione of “the richness of the harmony, the ingenious texture of the parts, and above all … the new and happy use made of wind instruments.” Johann Christian Bach never quite lived up to his own high standards or the equally high standards of his brothers in symphony or concerto music, but, when inspired, his operas were both brilliant and something they were not: sensuous.


Among active countertenors, Jaroussky is the closest we have to Randall K. Wong, who has, apparently, stopped performing (or at least stopped recording). His voice is exceptionally lovely in tone, far lovelier than David Daniels and even purer than the excellent Andreas Scholl. His intonation, vocal placement, technique, diction, and powers of interpretation place him at the very height of his profession. Whether or not you like J. C. Bach’s music, you owe it to yourself to hear Jaroussky sing the better numbers on this disc. They are an object lesson, along with the recordings of Wong and Nella Anfuso, of the true castrato style of the 18th century. Moreover, I was highly impressed with La Cercle de l’Harmonie, an orchestra unknown to me. It plays with a precision equal to groups like Il Giardino Armonico but without their sharp, brittle accents and the almost vicious spiccato of their violins (exciting, to be sure, but not always stylistically correct); thus their warmer, more ingratiating sound is more congenial to Bach’s sensual music and Jaroussky’s meltingly beautiful voice. Since most of these pieces have never been recorded before, one may confidently say this disc is a unique experience.


FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
The London Bach’s operatic output has been woefully neglected … heard here performed with precision and dramatic tension.

Hot on the heels of their recent release of Vivaldi opera arias, Virgin Classics has again turned out a corker with this disc of ‘forgotten’ castrato arias by J.C. Bach.

Well-known as a composer of orchestral and instrumental music, the London Bach’s operatic output has been woefully neglected both on stage and in the recording studio. Very little of it is currently available, and several works on this disc here receive their first recordings.

Admittedly, the quality of Bach’s operatic work is uneven. One or two numbers on this disc make for enjoyable listening, but are hardly memorable. The arias from Adriano in Siria (tracks 6 and 7), for example, sound like standard, serviceable castrato fare. Indeed, the opera as a whole left its original 1765 London audience cold. But there are many more highlights, both musically and historically. The two concert arias and their preceding recitatives, ‘Sentimi, non partir … Al mio bene’ (tracks 3 and 4) and ‘Ebben si vada … Io ti lascio’ (tracks 12 and 13) are quite astonishing for their vocal beauty, dramatic intensity and instrumental variety. The addition of pianoforte parts makes them particularly attractive. Equally beguiling is ‘Fra l’orrore’ (track 9) from Carattaco. Not only does it make for fascinating listening by having a very British subject matter set to an Italian libretto - the opera concerns the derring-do exploits of Celtic king Caractacus - but the opening woodwind writing clearly prefigures Mozart – whom the kindly Bach befriended in London in 1764-65.

Counter-tenor Philippe Jaroussky delivers each aria and recitative with precision and emotional engagement, although one occasionally gets the feeling that some of the dramatic tension is a little overplayed. He is at his best in the two concert arias, which are broadly reminiscent of Haydn’s London arias some twenty years later. He also excels in the unashamed acrobatics of the opening ‘Pugna il guerriero’, and ‘Vo solcando un mar crudel’ (track 11). Le Cercle de l’Harmonie provides fine support, letting rip with some tricky decoration in the strings, and making the most of occasional flourishes for horns and trumpets.

-- John-Pierre Joyce, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1. La clemenza di Scipione: Pugna il guerrier by Johann Christian Bach
Performer:  Philippe Jaroussky (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Jérémie Rhorer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Cercle de l'Harmonie
Period: Classical 
Written: 1778 
2. Artaserse: Perche tarda e mai la morte by Johann Christian Bach
Performer:  Philippe Jaroussky (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Jérémie Rhorer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Cercle de l'Harmonie
Period: Classical 
Written: 1760 
3. Sentimi, non partir...Al mio bene, T 251/1 by Johann Christian Bach
Performer:  Philippe Jaroussky (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Jérémie Rhorer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Cercle de l'Harmonie
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1779 
4. Orfeo ed Euridice: La legge accetto by Johann Christian Bach
Performer:  Philippe Jaroussky (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Jérémie Rhorer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Cercle de l'Harmonie
Period: Classical 
Written: 1770 
5. Adriano in Syria: Cara, la dolce fiamma by Johann Christian Bach
Performer:  Philippe Jaroussky (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Jérémie Rhorer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Cercle de l'Harmonie
Period: Classical 
Written: 1764; London, England 
6. Adriano in Syria: Tutti nemici by Johann Christian Bach
Performer:  Philippe Jaroussky (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Jérémie Rhorer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Cercle de l'Harmonie
Period: Classical 
Written: 1764; London, England 
7. Carattaco: Perfida Cartismandua by Johann Christian Bach
Performer:  Philippe Jaroussky (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Jérémie Rhorer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Cercle de l'Harmonie
Period: Classical 
Written: 1767 
8. Carattaco: Tra l'orror by Johann Christian Bach
Performer:  Philippe Jaroussky (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Jérémie Rhorer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Cercle de l'Harmonie
Period: Classical 
Written: 1767 
9. Artaserse: No, che non ha la sorte by Johann Christian Bach
Performer:  Philippe Jaroussky (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Jérémie Rhorer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Cercle de l'Harmonie
Period: Classical 
Written: 1760 
10. Artaserse: Vo solcando un mar crudele by Johann Christian Bach
Performer:  Philippe Jaroussky (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Jérémie Rhorer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Cercle de l'Harmonie
Period: Classical 
Written: 1760 
11. Ebben si vada...Io ti lascio by Johann Christian Bach
Performer:  Philippe Jaroussky (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Jérémie Rhorer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Cercle de l'Harmonie
Period: Classical 
Written: c1778 
12. Temistocle: Ch'io parta? by Johann Christian Bach
Performer:  Philippe Jaroussky (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Jérémie Rhorer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Cercle de l'Harmonie
Period: Classical 
Written: 1772 

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