Italian Cantatas

Tall Poppies - TP173
1 CD
full price
Recorded in 2004.
Released in 2004.

  • Cuopre tal volta il cielo (HWV 98)
  • Tu fedel? Tu costanta? (HWV 171)
  • Mi palpita il cor (HWV 132c)
  • Spande ancor a mio dispetto (HWV 165)
  • Il duello amoroso (Amarilli vezzosa) (HWV 82)

Miriam Allen, soprano
Christopher Field, countertenor
Michael Leighton Jones, bass
Arcadia (on period instruments)
Jacqueline Ogeil, director


Arcadia, also known as Academia Arcadia, is described as “Australia’s first regionally based baroque cantata company”, meaning they are not based in one of the state capitals, but rather in Newcastle, an industrial coastal city an hour north of Sydney.  Their driving force is harpsichordist and scholar Jacqueline Ogeil, and on this occasion they feature a well-chosen trio of singers, veteran Michael Leighton Jones and rising singers Miriam Allen and Christopher Field.

The repertoire ranges from the familiar and often recorded 'Mi palpita il cor' (version with flute) to the little heard 'Cuopre tal volta il cielo'.  Unlike some other recordings, here the cantatas are sung by the voice type for which they were originally written:  'Cuopre' and 'Spande' by bass, 'Te fedel' by soprano, 'Mi palpita' by alto and 'Amarilli' by soprano and alto.

Leighton Jones has a very clear voice, more baritonal than bass, but he is capable for plumbing the depths of the tessitura when required, and with the requisite agility to negotiate the fioriture.  Miriam Allen has a nicely focused pure soprano, with not a lot of colours, but also with the necessary agility and accuracy.  Christopher Field’s countertenor avoids some of the drawbacks of this register, not sounding too covered, with an attractive upper register, and able to cope with the passagework as well as the others.  Here and there a slightly broad vowel sound betrays his national origins;  otherwise, all singers have admirable diction.  The orchestral accompaniment is suitably spare, avoiding some of the lusher excesses of other versions with larger ensembles, and displays grace and clarity.

Overall, all participants contribute a high level of musical and technical skill; what is lacking however is fire and passion, particularly on the part of the singers.  These are generally intelligent readings, but they are not marked by any great depths of expression.  In a very refined and highly proficient way, this recording amounts to easy baroque listening rather than a dramatic heartfelt experience.

© Sandra Bowdler - March 2005

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