Friday 18 November 2016

BravurA: Gabriella di Laccio in Handel and Vivaldi

Bravura - Gabriella di Laccio
Vivaldi, Handel; Gabriella di Laccio, Musica Antiqua Clio, Fernando Cordella; Drama Music
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Nov 4 2016
Star rating: 3.5

Bravura baroque arias on a recording which does not quite do the young Brazilian soprano justice

This is a new disc, on the Drama Musica label, from the young soprano Gabriella di Laccio. Accompanied by Fernando Cordella and Music Antiqua Clio, she performs arias by Handel and by Vivaldi. Entitled BravurA the disc includes arias from Vivaldi's Juditha Triumphans, Griselda and L'Olympiade and Handel's Rinaldo and Giulio Cesare, with the orchestra contributing the sinfonia from L'Olympiade and the overture to Rinaldo.

Gabriella di Laccio was born in Brazil and has dual Brazilian and Italian nationalities. She studied in her native Brazil and at the Royal College of Music. She is undoubtedly a fine singer with a stupendous technique, but the arias on this disc are either very famous or very bravura or both. Gabriella di Laccio and Fernando Cordella have taken the risky decision to take all the fast arias very fast indeed. All three Vivaldi arias have lots of fast-paced passage-work and it is something of a relief to finally get to the slower Handel aria, Lasci io pianga from Rinaldo. The results sound rather inspired by Cecilia Bartoli, and you felt that di Laccio and Cordella would have been better to concentrate on the quality of the sound being made rather than sheer speed.

The disc opens with the Vivaldi group. First Armatae face, et enguibus from Juditha Triumphans is fast and furious. Though not always ideally tidy the results are impressive. And di Laccio conveys the savage intensity of the words. Agitata da due venti from Griselda incorporates wide leaps into the busy vocal part (indicating the singer is shaken and trembling), and di Laccio executes them impressively. The Allegro from the sinfonia to L'Olympiade which is given with lively vivacity, but again the adage 'more haste less speed' came to mind. Finally, in this group, Siam navi all'onde algenti where Vivaldi again uses wide intervals to indicate emotional instability, but with three fast arias in a row we start to notice little details not quite perfect.

Lascia ch'io pianga from Handel's Rinaldo is something of a relief, being slower and di Laccio brings out the expressive character of the piece. But both she and the ensemble concentrate on individual notes rather than a giving a sense of musical line, so the results are four-square rather than having a lyrical fluid line over a dance rhythm (albeit a slow one). I was more taken with the ensemble's performance of the overture to Rinaldo, which opens with an attractive vivacity, closes in a perky manner and has a lovely lyrical oboe in the middle.

Piangero la sorte mia from Handel's Giulio Cesare in Egitto is performed with its recitative, Gabriella di Laccio brings out the character in the recitative and the aria is attractively plangent. We finish with a perky account of Da Tempeste from Giulio Cesare.

The disc had a launch in the UK at the Brazilian Embassy in London when Gabriella di Laccio, accompanied by the Royal College of Music Early Music Ensemble performed arias from the disc, show what a vibrant and engaging performer she can be.

This was a disc that I wanted to like more. Gabriella di Laccio is undoubtedly talented, but the recording, perhaps a little too close, catches too many details and does not quite capture the best of her live performance.

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) - sinfonia and arias from Juditha Triumphans, Griselda, L'Olympiade
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) - overture and arias from Rinaldo, Giulio Cesare in Egitto
Gabriella di Laccio (soprano)
Musica Antiqua Clio
Fernando Cordella (harpsichord and direction)
Drama Musica DRAMA001 1CD
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