The Carnival of Venice in 1729 was quite unlike any other. Over a period of two months, opera houses went into a frenzy of competition to show off the most famous singers of the day, including the legendary castrato Farinelli who made his astonishing Venetian debut. Several of the most fashionable composers rose to the occasion, writing ravishing music for spectacular productions which often pitted the singers against each other in breathtaking displays of virtuosity. The results were sensational; one tour de force followed another in an atmosphere of fevered excitement and the adoring public lapped it up.
Domenico Scarlatti’s La Dirindina and Albinoni’s Pimpinone are two 'intermezzi buffi', which were comic operatic interludes inserted between acts or scenes of an opera seria.
Pimpinone was performed for the first time in Venice in 1708, as the interlude for Astarto, Albinoni’s own opera seria. The work was an immediate success and was given many further performances, both in Italy and abroad. La Dirindina was composed seven years later, in 1715, by Domenico Scarlatti, son of Alessandro.
The Enea Baroque Orchestra, founded by the mezzo-soprano Francesca Ascioti in 2018, is currently regarded as the best Roman Baroque authority because of the high quality of its musicians. On this album the ensemble turns to Johann Adolf Hasses masterpiece, the Neapolitan Baroque opera Enea in Caonia (Aeneas in Chaonia), a genuine gem within the genre of the serenata. The libretto was inspired by Book III of Vergils Aeneid, the most famous epic poem in Latin literature. It was very fortunate that Hasse and Aeneas crossed paths in Italy, for both of them a new adoptive home, and breathed new life into this work.
This compilation is a perfect work/study/contemplation CD, when you want to reduce the hum and din of modern life. It's wonderfully played, and has 23 tracks for a total of 72:45 minutes of melodic, serene music. The famous Adagio in G minor, so often heard in films, etc., is here given a lovely rendition. Played a little faster than most other versions, with the individual instruments (especially the harpsichord) being heard clearly. It's not as lush and smooth as some recordings, but crisper, and to my ears, absolutely delightful. It's hard to pick favorites among the other selections…each piece is a baroque beauty that flows well from one track to the next. I'm sure this CD will please most people who like 18th century music.
Bach's six sonatas for violin and keyboard, written at the Cöthen court where the composer was responsible for instrumental music, are sometimes cited as historical firsts – as the first violin-and-keyboard sonatas to cast the two instruments in equal roles. The designation is a little misleading, for the works had few real successors; it took more than 50 years before violin and keyboard once again took the stage as equals. Their equality in this set is not really a stylistic innovation but rather the result of Bach's tendency to think exhaustively in terms of the potentialities of his instruments. Be that as it may, one must approach a recording of the set with ears open to the contributions of both instrumentalists and how they work together.