Philippe Jaroussky

Nicola Porpora: Arias

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Italian composer Nicola Porpora is mainly a footnote in the history books these days, noted as Haydn's teacher, but in his day he was a rival to Handel and wrote a good deal of music for the celebrated castrato Carlo Broschi, aka, Farinelli. That music is sampled here by the startlingly soprano-like French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, and listeners are likely to feel that it's been unjustly neglected. Jaroussky sounds great, his creamy voice sailing through the mostly tuneful pieces. There are also a few big showpieces of the sort that Renée Fleming and others have recorded on their Baroque aria albums. Jaroussky is not quite as powerful here, but there are some real finds in the music like the gripping soprano-and-trumpet cadenza in "Nell'attendere il mio bene," from Polifemo (track 8). All the way through the music is like that: it's recognizably part of the same world as Handel's arias, but it's full of original touches unrelated to Handel. Porpora's most famous piece, the atmospheric "Alto giove" (again from the opera Polifemo) is here, as are a couple of duets in which Jaroussky is joined by no less than Cecilia Bartoli. These fall easily into the classification of rare treat. Throw in sensitive accompaniment from the Venice Baroque Orchestra and conductor Andrea Marcon for an extremely worthwhile Baroque aria recital.

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