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Franco Fagioli - Canzone e Cantate

5 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Audio CD, July 26, 2011
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Product Details

  • Performer: Franco Fagioli, Luca Pianca, Marco Frezzato, Jorg Halubek
  • Composer: Claudio Monteverdi, Antonio Vivaldi, George Frideric Handel, Girolamo Frescobaldi, Giovanni Paisiello, et al.
  • Audio CD (July 26, 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Carus
  • ASIN: B0049DHKJS
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #177,603 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
The vocal qualities of a good falsettist are distinctively "masculine" and instantly recognizable. How much they might sound like the revered operatic castrati of the High Baroque is a matter of conjecture, but the observations of 17th and 18th Century essayists suggest that 'cognoscenti' heard significant differences. Naturally high tenors and falsettists had flourished in the 16th Century repertoire of madrigals and chamber cantatas, and they persisted in performances of that repertoire despite the meteoric rise to popularity of the castrati in opera. In fact, the canons of vocal technique and manner were different in chamber music from those in opera. A "chamber" falsettist was expected to be genteel, dignified, aloof from theatrical grimacing and gesturing -- all music and no drama if you will, precisely the opposite of the flamboyant castrati. By the mid 18th Century, the prestige of falsettists was seemingly at its low ebb, while the castrati flourished well into the early 19th C. This CD is a program of "canzone e cantate da camera," of works for chamber performance rather than for the opera stage, by composers from Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643) to Giovanni Paisiello (1740-1816), by way of the ultimate masters of "camera" composition Antonio Vivaldi and Georg Friedrich Händel.

If countertenors as a sub-species lack an important adaptation to the musical environment of the Baroque, it's their lack of dynamics in volume. That weakness was noted disparagingly by the musician Pietro della Valle in writing in 1640: "The art of piano and forte singing was alien to them, as was the gradual crescendo and diminuendo ..." The criticism is still appropriate for all but a tiny number of countertenors today, and it applies to Franco Fagioli as well.
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Young counter-tenor Franco Fagioli owns a voice of warmth with a compact vibrato, but there is a bright core that appeals to listeners. Here, he is joined by a small continuo 'band'. The result is not quite the same as singing in a full-fledged operatic set up under the baton and firm grip of a conductor.
The CD begins with five lute songs of the early baroque, and the Frescobaldi is a fine and docile opener. The ‘Ecco di dolci raggi’ by Monteverdi is also a pastoral song. I find Fagioli to be in his element in the songs of Monteverdi, especially ‘Si dolce e’l tormento’, in which he expresses the emotions of the piece with perfection. The five lute songs lead to a lute solo before the first of three cantatas.
Each of these cantatas is similarly separated by instrumental selections. The first of the cantatas, Handel’s ’Aure soavi e lieti’ (HWV 84), explores a tranquil, graceful affectation. Lots of legato singing here seasoned with just the right amount of blanche tones and over-brightened vowels.
Vivaldi’s cantata, ‘Pianti, sospiri a dimandar’ (RV 676) is the highlight of the album. Fagioli’s reading can justly be benchmarked against that of Philippe Jarrousky and Sara Mingardo. While I personally favour Mingardo’s, Fagiloli’s performance here is a ravishing display of technique. His warmer tone makes him more menacing than pretty-boy Jarroussky, yet his rapid vibrato speed makes him sound more passionate than the super cool Mingardo. Fagioli is a countertenor who can easily dip into his chest voice like the best modal bel canto specialists, the coloratura mezzo-soperanos.
The program’s last major work – Handel’s ‘Dolc’è pur d’amor l’affanno’ (HWV 109) is a great way to cool down.
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Franco has one of the most beautiful counter tenor voices of all times. It's a joy to listen to him. I am bewildered by his voice!
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