Classical Reviews: April 27

Couperin: Trois Lecons de Tenebres, etc. The King's Consort. Vivat CD.

The second disc released by this new label again features Robert King's Consort of original instruments directed by himself, with British soprano Carolyn Sampson and Norwegian mezzo Marianne Beate Kielland in evocative French baroque music. Francois Couperin ''Le Grand'' (1668-1733) composed his three Lecons for Holy Week which are vividly atmospheric, with rich dissonance in their musical colours and deep melancholy - early music of great elegance. In addition we hear a joyous Easter motet and a fine setting of the Magnificat, both vocal duets by Couperin, and some stunning solo instrumental tracks by Marin Marais and Monsieur de Ste-Columbe featuring the bass viol player Susanne Heinrich. Excellent packaging and accompanying booklet.

Technical: Recording at ''low'' French baroque pitch A=392Hz gives richness to the vocal and instrumental sonorities.

''Venezia. Opera arias of the Serenissima''. Max Emanuel Cencic (countertenor). Virgin CD.

VENICE earned the title ''Serenissima'' (the most serene city) by the time Vivaldi's operas flourished in the 18th century. Croatian-born Cencic started his musical career as a treble in the Vienna Boys Choir much more recently, having previously (at age 6) shown talent by singing the Queen of the Night's aria from Mozart's Die Zauberflote. Here he sings five nice arias by Vivaldi, plus six others by lesser-known composers such as Giacomelli, Albinoni and Sellito. His voice reaches the required stratosphere at the end of opening track Barboro non comprendo, from Caldara's opera Adriano in Siria. He is well accompanied by Il Pomo d'Oro, a chamber group led by violinist Riccardo Minasi. Interesting booklet provided, with lyrics. Highlight: Dazzling virtuosity display in Sellito's Anche un misero arboscello.

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