Oddly, Decca has hidden away a recording from 2013 of Cecilia Bartoli singing dramatic concert arias from the classical period. The album – now called Unreleased – will be available from 12 November, with the Kammerorchester Basel under Muhai Tang. Bartoli toured with the group in 2013 singing some of the repertoire on the disc. Bartoli explains what occurred during the pause in her touring schedule due to the pandemic:
I enjoyed being able to attend to so many things that I had left unfinished, postponed or forgotten. At last, I had the chance to rummage through my sound archives in search of hidden gems. Among the numerous long-lost friends that came to light, the recordings on this album are particularly precious to me.
Forgetting an entire album seems unlikely, but whatever the reason for the delay it is an exciting announcement for Bartoli fans who have had few new recordings to enjoy over the past couple of years.
The notoriously demanding pieces on the album (the tracklist is reproduced below) were written by the greatest composers of the classical era for the leading sopranos of their day. Bartoli performs dramatic concert arias that were all written in a period of 23 years, by four composers whose influence on one another is clear, and whose compositions were shaped by the great sopranos they were written for.
Beethoven's Ah! Perfido‚ written for the celebrated singer Josepha Duschek during the composer's visit to Prague in 1796, may foreshadow some of the music for Beethoven's only ever operatic heroine: Fidelio's Leonore. Duschek also gave the premiere of Mozart's Bella mia fiamma and was the originally intended performer of Ah, lo previdi, later performed by Aloysia Weber. Other tracks on Unreleased feature Mozart arias originally written for other great singers of the 18th century such as the castrato Tommaso Consoli who first sung Mozart's L'amerò sarò costante (in the opera Il Pastore).
Bartoli continues her work to showcase underperformed rarities with Se mai senti, written by the Bavarian composer Josef Mysliveček from his 1734 opera La Clemenza di Tito and was composed for Pietro Benedetti (who also premiered early Mozart operas). Mysliveček, starting life as a miller in Bavaria before travelling to Italy, became Europe's most successful and best-paid opera composer by the time he befriended the young Mozart.
Bartoli has previously performed Haydn's Scena di Berenice in concert with her performance at the 2001 Styriarte Festival described by Gramophone as “one of the best recorded concerts on DVD”. This is Bartoli's first studio recording of Haydn's demanding aria first performed by Brigida Bant in London in 1791.
Russian-born Israeli violinist, violist, and conductor Maxim Vengerov features with violin solos on two tracks: L'amerò sarò costante and Ch'io mi scordi di te? Bartoli adds,
I would like to thank my dear colleague and friend Maxim Vengerov who has always been such a big inspiration for me and who has joined me in the recording of these two wonderful Mozart arias.
Beethoven: Ah! Perfido, Op. 65
Mozart: Ch'io mi scordi di te?… Non temer, amato bene, K505 (violin solo – Maxim Vengerov)
Myslivecek: Se mai senti from La Clemenza di Tito
Mozart: Ah, lo previdi… Ah, t'invola agl'occhi miei, K272
Mozart: Bella mia fiamma, addio… Resta, oh cara, K528
Mozart: L'amerò, sarò costante from Il re pastore, K208 (violin solo – Maxim Vengerov)
Haydn: Berenice, che fai? Scena di Berenice, Hob XXIVa:10
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.