Cecilia Bartoli & Sol Gabetta Dolce DuelloCecilia & Sol

Dolce Duello

Cecilia Bartoli, mezzosoprano; Sol Gabetta, cello

Cappella Gabetta

Andrés Gabetta, violin & director

Decca, 2017

Those who are sceptical about the art of Cecilia Bartoli be reassured: Dolce Duello is definitely not one of those recordings where the trills of the Italian mezzosoprano are so hysterical and frantic that it is almost impossible to enjoy her extraordinary philological work and her passion for musical rarities, but it is the fine, dazzling album that the cover effectively promises – and not only for the singer’s self-control, but for the notable, not less remarkable presence of a co-star of the calibre of cellist Sol Gabetta.

The partnership between Bartoli and Gabetta in Dolce Duello is one of those that, beginning with the close interrelation between human voice and instrument (the cello, in the present case) that characterized the music of the 17th and the 18th centuries, ends up becoming a memorable duo that work very well together. The chemistry between Bartoli and Gabetta is perfect and no other work exemplifies it better than Vivaldi’s Tito Manlio where, in the aria Di verde ulivo, the cello closely follows and echoes the vocal trills, but there is plenty of occasions to enjoy this collaboration, as in the long, remarkable aria Fortuna e speranza from Caldara’s Nitocri, in Aure, andate e baciate from Albinoni’s Il nascimento dell’Aurora, in Aure voi, de’ miei sospiri from Domenico Gabrielli’s San Sigismondo, in Son qual stanco Pellegrino from Handel’s Arianna in Creta and in Giusto Amor, tu che m’accendi from Porpora’s Gli Orti Espridi.

Bartoli’s dark timbre is not one of the most charming, even though her middle register is smooth enough and her phrasing is soft as in What passion cannot Music raise and quell! from Handel’s Ode for St Cecilia’s Day. Her upper register, on the contrary, is rather shrill. Not even Bartoli’s choice of accents seems always appropriate, but on her advantage there are other, equally significant qualities: her sound technique and her impeccable intonation are not trivial things and her command of coloratura is particularly notable in an aria as Tanto, e con sì gran pena from Caldara’s opera Gianguir, Imperatore del Mogol. Moreover, the continual effort to find the right meaning for what she sings sometimes leads to good results, especially when Bartoli sings arias requiring a sweet nuance.

The last thing I would like to point out is that it seems that the sound engineers have taken care to turn up the microphone volume so that Bartoli’s voice booms, but this is more a habit to which the listeners are accustomed at least from her Sonnambula with Juan Diego Florez and there is no need to insist further.

Gabetta, for her part, is the truly dolce (“sweet”) part of this Dolce Duello. The “voice” of her instrument has that kind of grace and amiability that Bartoli lacks and is the one that creates the elegantly Baroque surroundings that so wonderfully embellish the arias.

To honour the accomplished cellist, the last work of Dolce Duello shows her not as the second voice of an aria but as the protagonist in Luigi Boccherini’s delightful Cello Concerto no. 10 in D major. This is a late work in comparison to the others, as it was written around 1782 and therefore belongs to the opposite half of the 18th century in comparison to Handel, Porpora, Caldara and Vivaldi. You can easily guess the taste of the Classical period here, but it would be a pity if this sunny work had not been included in Dolce Duello, if not for the fact that Gabetta plays it with mesmerizing zest and liveliness, which is particularly amazing in the wonderful cadenzas.

Dolce Duello is really a wonderful recording of Baroque treasures and Cecilia Bartoli and Sol Gabetta perform them with such skill and enthusiasm that every listener will be pleased.

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