In the eye of the Baroque storm: Blandine Staskiewicz

Tempesta: Blandine Staskiewicz (Glossa)

Les Ambassadeurs/ Alexis Kossenko

blandine-staskiewicz-tempesta-glossaI first heard Blandine Staskiewicz about a decade ago, as a breathy – and sometimes breathless – Medoro on Jean-Christophe’s star-studded recording of Orlando furioso. “Rompo i ceppi” was one of the most oft-played tracks on my iPod before it eventually departed to that great Apple store in the sky. Her youthful exuberance made up for a distinct lack of weight in her lower register. Ten years on, it’s a pleasure to encounter her on disc once again.

“Tempesta” brings together arias by Vivaldi and Handel, plus single contributions from Porpora and Pergolesi. Many of the tracks feature the aria di tempesta, where the character is in a state of anger, despair or inner turmoil. Vivaldi excelled in writing stormy music, whether for the operatic stage of for his own furious fiddling in any number of concerti. Of course, a whole disc of such turbulent vocal writing would wear out the listener, so these have been interspersed with a couple of sinfonias (Agrippina and L’Olimpiade) and slow, reflective arias – the calm before (or after) the storm. It makes for an entertaining, balanced programme.

Staskiewicz negotiates the twists and turns in some treacherous vocal writing with a good deal of aplomb. “Siam navi all’onde algenti” was made famous on Cecilia Bartoli’s “Vivaldi Album” for Decca. Here, Staskiewicz has all the agility of La Ceci, but hers is a lighter mezzo, without the frenetic hammering home of consonants. Lightning fast coloratura around some treacherous corners impress in “Agitata da due venti” from Griselda.

The disc features lively accompaniments from Les Ambassadeurs, conducted by Alexis Kossenko. “Io son fra l’onde” from La verità in cimento finds us in Vivaldi’s Il gardellino territory, with chirruping piccolo from Kossenko himself. The tempestuous Allegro movement to the sinfonia to L’Olimpiade is fiery, followed by a dainty Andante, where the strings slyly bend notes to raise a smile.

Handel’s vocal storms aren’t quite as passionate as Vivaldi’s, but in arias like “Pensieri, voi mi tormentate”, Staskiewicz conveys character through carefully nuanced phrasing. Her coloratura is truly virtuosic in Rossane’s “Brilla nell’alma” from Alessandro. After a fiery recitative, Serse’s “Ombra mai fù” is all balm and noble grace. There’s an aural premonition a couple of tracks earlier, with “Quando mai spietata sorte” from Radamisto, the oboe line of which anticipates Serse’s aria.

Porpora’s “Spesso di nubi cinto” from Carlo di Calvo is dispatched with élan (and a good deal swifter than on Franco Fagioli’s recent disc), while managing the terrifying interval leaps well in Pergolesi’s Torbido in volto” from Adriano in Siria.

Towards the top of Staskiewicz’s register, the voice occasionally lacks colour, especially in slower sections of arias, and the odd low notes sounds hollow, but her bravura coloratura and an intelligent programme make this a most enjoyable disc.

Glossa (GCD 923503, 65 minutes)

This entry was posted in CD and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.