For lovers of vocal Baroque music who find Cecilia Bartoli’s singing excessively ornamented and affected, here is an antidote: the superb artistry of French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky. Voted Operatic Revelation of the Year at the Victoires de la Musique Classique held in Lille in January 2004, Jaroussky began his career as an instrumentalist and made his vocal debut in 1999.
This CD of Vivaldi’s arias and recitatives (plus a sonata in B flat major) is squarely in Bartoli territory, but without the histrionics. The cantatas remain strictly within the bounds of decorum. At times sounding like a true soprano, Jaroussky has a pure, pleasing tone with a good range. His is a lovely, inviting performance, like the sweet caress of a zephyr, light as the wings of a hummingbird drinking its nectar. This honest, smooth flow of music is devoid of distracting antics and refreshes the spirit, evoking simpler times. Listen, for example, to the aria “Quel passagier non io” from the cantata Qual per ignoto calle (RV 677), which Jaroussky sings with wonderful portamento and delightful subtleties. Moreover, his Italian enunciation is superb. Also to be commended is the virtuosic cello of Emilia Gliozzi in the sonata for violoncello and basso continuo (RV 47).
Unfortunately, the liner notes provide no information on the singer or the ensemble. The descriptions of the instruments and their dates, however, are a welcome addition. The sound is a bit unfocused and could have had a better mix.
— Dalia Geffen
(Founder and president of the Boston Wagner Society)