Xavier Sabata / Forma Antiqva / Aaron Zapico

Handel: Amore X Amore

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For its debut album on Winter & Winter, the five-member ensemble Forma Antiqva, made up of harpsichord and plucked and bowed strings, presents an attractive program of vocal and instrumental music by Handel, the vocal works written early in his career, and the instrumental pieces from his mature period. The five Italian cantatas, as the title of the album suggests, deal with love, either happy or frustrated. They are delightfully lyrical and dramatic works, and the intimacy of the small ensemble makes them even more emotionally urgent and fresh-sounding. Male alto Xavier Sabata has a somewhat white sound, but his voice is full and expressive, and he has the technique to dispatch the music's virtuoso demands with apparent effortlessness. He has an especially velvety legato that makes the most of Handel's warm melismatic melodies, such as the first aria from Nel dolce tempo. Harpsichordist Aarón Zapico, who created the imaginative realizations, also leads the ensemble, which derives an especially rich and colorful sound from the varied instruments employed. The playing matches Sabata's singing in its spontaneity and liveliness. The instrumentalists are capable of producing a conventionally refined sound, but they are also willing and able to dig in and play with a gritty earthiness when appropriate. The cantatas are separated by four instrumental works, Zapico's skillful arrangements of a variety of pieces ranging from the familiar Organ Concerto in B flat major No. 6/4 to a keyboard suite and violin sonata. The sound is clean and clear, but not especially spacious. The diversity of works and the exceptional singing and playing make this a release that should be of strong interest to fans of Handel, and particularly to fans of countertenors.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Ho fuggito, HWV118
1 5:14
2 0:52
3 3:03
Organ Concerto in B flat major, Op. 4 No. 6, HWV 294
4 5:28
Lungi da me, pensier tiranno!, HWV 125b
5 0:54
6 2:06
7 0:40
8 2:15
9 1:00
10 4:02
Violin sonata in D minor, HWV 359a
11 2:31
12 1:53
Nel dolce tempo, HWV 135b
13 1:32
14 5:03
15 1:28
16 2:48
Harpsichord Suite No. 7 in G minor, HWV 432
17 3:02
Clori, degli occhi miei, HWV 91a
18 0:49
19 3:53
20 0:40
21 3:57
Violin sonata in D minor, HWV 359a
22 0:59
23 2:34
Dolc'è pur d'amore l'affanno, HWV 109a
24 5:36
25 0:45
26 2:28
blue highlight denotes track pick