Notes and Editorial Reviews
THREE BAROQUE TENORS
Ian Bostridge (ten); Bernard Labadie, cond; English Concert (period instruments)
EMI 6 26864 (66:39
Text and Translation)
ARNE, BOYCE, CALDARA, CONTI, GALLIARD, GASPARINI, HANDEL, A. SCARLATTI, VIVALDI
In this recital, Ian Bostridge pays homage to three tenors of the Baroque era, described by the accompanying notes as the “star tenors of their day.” While the castrato commanded the
Baroque stage, tenors, when used at all, were usually cast in minor roles. These three tenors were different in that composers wrote for them more substantial roles, sometimes even heroic, starring roles that would ordinarily have been given to castratos. Bostridge has chosen arias that illustrate the unique vocal qualities of the three tenors.
Annabile Po Fabri was trained by the castrato Pistocchi and was much in demand in Italy. His vocal technique is reported as similar to that of the castrato, such as the ability to sustain notes, the “swell” on a single note, and especially
singing, described by the notes here as “a vocal line unfolded languorously over softly throbbing accompaniment.” He is represented here by arias written by Alessandro Scarlatti and especially Antonio Vivaldi, with whom he had a working relationship from 1716 to 1729. He also sang for Handel in the Second Academy. Handel created three roles for him, represented here by an aria from
Francesco Borosini, who was taught by his father, Antonio, also a tenor, spent most of his career at the imperial court of Charles I in Vienna. He succeeded his father in the Imperial Chapel in 1712 and continued his service there until 1731. He also sang leading roles in the court theater. Borosini “excelled in a forceful style of singing, with wide leaps and energetic syllabic declamation, mingled with elaborate arpeggiato passages” (
The Cambridge Handel Encyclopedia
). His range allowed him to sing both tenor and baritone roles. He also sang in Handel’s company in 1724–25, creating the roles of Bajazet in
and Grimoaldo in
. Borosini had previously sung the role of Bajazet in Francesco Gasparini’s
. Evidence suggests that Borosini’s arrival in London inspired Handel substantially to rewrite the role of Bajazet for tenor. It is interesting in this recital to compare the aria “Forte e lieto” from Gasparini’s and Handel’s operas for their different approaches to the role. Gasparini’s Bajazet is defiant at his recent defeat by Tamerlano, while Handel’s character is more resigned and tragic. In addition, for a revival of
, Handel adapted the role of Sesto from soprano to tenor for Borosini; one of the new arias here receives what is claimed to be its first recording. In fact, six arias in this recital are claimed as first recordings.
John Beard sang mostly in English works and was the first star tenor of the London stage. Beard began his career in the Chapel Royal. After his voice broke, Beard did not continue his career as a chorister. Handel engaged him to sing operatic roles in the years 1734–37, writing for him tenor roles in six operas, including
Il pastor fido, Ariodante,
. He also sang in English works:
and a revival of
. Beard appeared in many musical plays in Drury Lane theaters until his marriage with Lady Henrietta Herbert (the first marriage between a noblewoman and an actor) created a scandal. From this point, it was mostly Handel who employed him, creating for him starring tenor roles in his oratorios and odes. In addition to the aria from
, Beard is represented here by two arias from
as well as arias by Thomas Arne, William Boyce, and John Galliard.
Bostridge’s performance of this varied program is admirable. Although I could not say that I discern a different approach to the arias representing the three tenors, Bostridge has all the technique required by this often-difficult music. He does not skate by on generalized vocalism but attempts to convey the character portrayed through vocal technique and verbal emphasis. Bernard Labadie and the English Concert provide vivid, emphatic support. I cannot remember any other recent Baroque recording in which the orchestra could be said to be an equal partner with the singer, such is the excellence of its contribution. Labadie keeps things moving without exaggerated tempos.
The accompanying booklet contains notes on the tenors as well as the works, with text and translations (where needed) in English, German, and French. Surprisingly, the booklet shows signs of sloppy editing. The text does not exactly match what is sung in a couple of instances. Also, on the back of the jewel case and in the index on page 3 of the booklet, the aria from
is identified as by Caldara, while the sung text properly identifies it as by Handel.
This highly attractive disc is self-recommending to lovers of Baroque vocal music.
FANFARE: Ron Salemi
Works on This Recording
Tamerlano, HWV 18: Forte e lieto by George Frideric Handel
Ian Bostridge (Tenor)
Written: by 1724; London, England
Rosamond: Rise, Glory rise by Thomas Augustine Arne
Ian Bostridge (Tenor)
Joaz: Lo so, con periglio by Antonio Caldara
Ian Bostridge (Tenor)
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