Roberta Invernizzi / Sonia Prina / Ensemble Claudiana / Luca Pianca AMORE E MORTE DELL'AMORE

An album of Baroque love duets seems to tumble off the presses every other month. Not that I’m complaining when the results are as good as this. The programme is unclichéd, ranging from Monteverdi’s Seventh and Eighth Books of Madrigals, via little-known pieces by Benedetto Marcello, Lotti and Durante, to two chamber cantatas composed by the young Handel immediately after his triumphant Italian sojourn. And in Roberta Invernizzi and Sonia Prina, Naïve have netted the two most exciting Italian Baroque specialists of their generation.
Native speakers have a head start, of course, in Monteverdi’s humanist-inspired declamatory recitative. With their pure, almost instrumental timbres, musical intelligence and acute yet unexaggerated feeling for verbal sound and sense, Invernizzi and Prina make well-nigh ideal partners. Their precision and blend are uncanny. In the languidly melancholic ‘Interrotte speranze’ they point the harmonic clashes and shape the cadences with exquisite taste, using vibrato discreetly and tellingly. ‘Mentre vaga angioletta’, a hymn to the spirit of music, provokes riots of giddy yet perfectly controlled coloratura. Their voices then entwine in hushed ecstasy in the final duet from L’incoronazione di Poppea, long known not to be by Monteverdi – though there’s no whisper of this in the inadequate booklet-note, the one serious blot on the whole production.
Moving forward a century, soprano and contralto are no less intense in the masochistic adoration of Lotti’s Giuramento amoroso and Durante’s darkly brooding Son io barbara donna. They spar gleefully with each other in the two Handel cantatas. Throughout the disc the continuo battery of Ensemble Claudiana provides colourful support, while violinist Riccardo Minasi relishes both the inwardness and percussive boldness of a rare sonata by Domenico Scarlatti. But the disc belongs to Invernizzi and Prina, who aptly cap a feast of glorious Baroque singing with volleys of delighted Handelian virtuosity. (Richard Wigmore / Gramophone)

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