Energetic playing from a starry band supports sensitive singing from bass Matthew Rose, bringing a historical singer to vivid, contemporary life.
Hyperion has made a fascinating and entertaining art form of matching individual arias to the singers for whom they were originally written. Arias for the Italian castrato Gaetano Guadagni and French soprano Marie Fel have enjoyed recent success, and their survey of arias written for the opera buffa bass-baritone (and Mozart's first Figaro), Francesco Benucci, performed by Matthew Rose and period band Arcangelo, is no less enjoyable.
Whereas the likes of Paisiello and Sarti were working with the limited musical form of opera buffa, Mozart was transcending and improving it, so it is unsurprising that the highlights of this disc are his, rather than the more formulaic pieces of his contemporaries. That is not to say that Rose’s commitment is not evident for all the composers represented here, though, and in the arias by Salieri in particular, his particularly musical way with melody and clarity of diction bring out the edgy darkness that give it some flavour.
Arcangelo, under Jonathan Cohen’s relentlessly positive and energetic direction, deserves equal attention, with a personnel list that reads like a who’s-who of the best players in period performance. In particular, the German oboist Xenia Loeffler’s distinctively sweet tone supports Rose’s idiomatic Mozart singing, fitting together into a performance style whose brightness and ebullience perhaps owes more to Handel than to Mozart, but is none the poorer for it.