IBO & Peter Whelan - The Trials of Tenducci - Fanfare

By now, readers will know that I'm a sucker for recordings and programs that capture a particular historical place and time. In many ways, these are more organic than single composer collections and a more accurate reflection of the musical culture of a given location and historical moment. Here, Peter Whelan and the Irish Baroque Orchestra take listeners back to Dublin in the 18th century, with a program focused on the musical connections of the prominent castrato Giusto Ferdinando Tenducci. The liner notes, by Samantha Owens, paint a vivid portrait of the colorful castrato. Whelan opens the program with the world premiere recording of a symphony by the Belgian composer Pierre van Maldere (1729–1768), who directed the "Philharmonick Concerts" in Dublin from 1751–53. The Symphony in G Major, VR28, is an Italianate work cast in three movements, handled deftly by the orchestra. They offer a vivacious, bubbly reading of the symphony that is enthusiastic without sacrificing agility or clarity. Tenducci's portrayal of Arbaces in Thomas Arne's English language opera Artaxerxes was a watershed in the singer's career, and two arias from the work follow. Mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught is in top form in what may be her first studio recording project as a featured soloist. The dazzling passagework and pure sound that have wowed opera critics is on full display here, and Whelan ensures that the orchestra is a sensitive collaborator, matching Erraught's energy and style without getting in the way. The middle of the program is a set of music by Tommaso Giordani, who was active in London and Dublin during Tenducci's career. The Celebrated Overture and Irish Medley from Giordani's pantomime The Island of Saints is another world premiere recording featuring the orchestra. Again, the playing is nimble and light, just right for this music. The final movement, the "Irish medly," is a particular highlight; it is clear that the players are enjoying this. Caro mio ben, long considered to be by Giuseppe Giordani (a possible younger brother), is now attributed to Tommaso. Erraught offers a tender reading here that should be a model for the scores of aspiring singers who bring the aria to lessons across the world. The set closes with Queen Mary's Lamentation, closely associated, like Caro mio ben, with Tenducci. The middle movement of Fischer's Oboe Concerto No. 7 in F Major, a theme and variations on "Gramachree Molly," serves as a kind of palate cleanser. Soloist Andreas Helm plays with an informal nonchalance that suits the music perfectly and makes some of the technical passages sound deceptively easy. Erraught shines again in two selections by J. C. Bach, the recitative and aria Ebben si vada – Io ti lascio and Bach's arrangement of The Braes of Ballenden. In place of a lost Mozart aria written for Tenducci, Whelan substitutes the Exsultate, jubilate, K 165. In short, this album, in its programming and its performance, is a home run. Tara Erraught delivers polished, expressive performances and the Irish Baroque Orchestra offer taut, idiomatic readings of the orchestral selections while serving also as consummate accompanists. Very highly recommended.

03 September 2021