Baroque Duets

0 of 5 stars

Stabat mater
Gloria – Laudamus te
Dixit Dominus – Virgam virtutis tuae
Dueto XV: Quel fior che all’alba fide, HWV192
Duetto XVI: No, di voi non vo’fidarmi, HWV189
Settimo Libro dei Madrigali – Chiome d’oro
L’Incoronazione di Poppea – Pur ti miro

Sara Macliver (soprano) &
Sally-Anne Russell (mezzo-soprano)

Orchestra of the Antipodes
Antony Walker

Recorded 4-8 October & 9 December 2004, and 25 March 2005, in the Eugene Goossens Hall at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Ultimo Centre, Sydney

Reviewed by: William Yeoman

Reviewed: November 2005
476 7737
Duration: 63 minutes

In 2004 Australia saw the inaugural Fine Arts (Classical, Jazz, World and Soundtrack) component of the normally pop-dominated Australian Record Industry Awards (ARIA). Then, the present artists were nominated for Best Classical Album for the delightful and highly successful “Bach Arias and Duets” (476 1183). This year, 2005, they were nominated for the current release, “Baroque Duets”; and although the award yet again eluded them, they moved a step closer by winning the People’s Choice Award.

It’s not hard to hear why. Both singers combine a clarity, focus and sheer beauty of sound with an interpretative approach unencumbered by the patina of scholarly in-fighting that often characterises the often-fractious European period-performance crowd. The Pergolesi features flexible tempos, dramatic spaciousness, intensity, and much that is moving; the special stillness of the final ‘Quando corpus morietur’ is broken only by the urgent, imploring ‘Amen’. The Vivaldi items are similarly treated, though with an added glow and fierceness.

The arrival of the harpsichord in the Handel duets provides a welcome relief to the sound of the organ in the preceding sacred works, lighting the bounce and lilt of the vocal delivery like the sun. The smooth yet differentiated semiquaver runs in “No, di voi non vo’fidarmi” glimmer like pearls. Monteverdi’s famous “Chiome d’oro” likewise receives a crisp, joyful reading. Finally, the gorgeous “Pur ti miro”, as good a way to end a disc as to end the opera, is simply stated, the music left to work its magic. Here, though, one wishes for more vivid characterisation of the lovers.

The Orchestra of the Antipodes’ light instrumental textures (strings, theorbo and organ or harpsichord) offsets the often sensual, yet at times strangely detached, singing to perfection (despite some slight intonation problems in the strings). Antony Walker brings great understanding to his conducting of the vocal lines, a result of his considerable experience in choral direction. Perhaps not a first choice in this repertoire, the present release nevertheless offers a fresh and attractive alternative in this oft-recorded repertoire.

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