Hyperion and Jonathan Cohen have been collaborating on a rewarding series of historically themed CD's featuring a single present-day British soloist. Already out are the Mozart tenor arias disc devised for Jeremy Ovenden (with the OAE, on Signum), the Handel bass arias for Christopher Purves, and Guadagni-inspired disc for Iestyn Davies.
Here an enlightening and consistently enjoyable spotlight is trained on the bass-baritone Matthew Rose and on Francesco Benucci, whose career peak (1783-95) occurred in Vienna. There he undertook several historically significant 'firsts'—most notably the title role of Mozart's Figaro and Guglielmo in Così fan tutte. The disc's fare—expertly varied, if for my taste rather illogically ordered—allots most space to Mozart, including also Don Giovanni (which when it came to Vienna from Prague had Benucci as Leporello). But samples of Sarti, Martin y Soler and especially Salieri show that he could be darkly serious as well as exuberantly comic.
Matthew Rose's protean instrument may lack the full-bodied glamour of, say, Ildebrando D'Arcangelo's, and his Italian, albeit extremely proficient, sports a noticeable English accent. Happily his artistry, informed alike by musical and dramatic flair, is every bit the programme's equal, and the playing by Arcangelo is unfailingly fresh, lively and stylish.