Castrato Carlo Broschi, known as Farinelli, was one of the most celebrated musical figures of the early 18th century, and perhaps the most entertaining item here is the crestfallen England's Lamentation for the Loss of Farinelli, published in several arrangements in the 1730s and 1740s. The piece marked not Farinelli's death, but his departure from England for Spain in 1737, and the recorder-and-soprano version here is beautifully done. It was in Madrid where Farinelli apparently undertook his few efforts as a composer, dedicating a small collection of recitatives and arias to the Austrian empress Maria Theresia during her residence among her Spanish subjects. They're not lost treasures of Baroque operatic repertory, but for anyone interested in the world of the castrato (which includes most people who've heard of this barbaric practice) the album helps in imagining Farinelli's world. Jörg Waschinski, who designates himself a male soprano rather than a countertenor, does a fine job of evoking the muscular sound of the castrati (the last one died in the 1910s and left a few recordings that, though attenuated, give an idea of what these singers were like). The music itself seems to have been intended as a demonstration of Farinelli's vocal powers. The program opens with a spiky storm aria, "Io sperai del porto in sano," but most of the pieces begin as mid-range melodies that are then spectacularly ornamented. Perhaps Farinelli would have ornamented them even more spectacularly than does Waschinski, but then he had the benefit of castration. The Salzburger Hofmusik ensemble under Wolfgang Brunner provides suitably restrained support. Recommended for library collections and those of Baroque opera buffs.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
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