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This was the response of Classique News to Max Emmanuel Cencic’s first recital for Virgin Classics, released in 2007 and since awarded the Orphée d'Or by the Académie du Disque Lyrique. The German website KlassikInfo judged that: “It would not be possible to sing Malcolm’s arias from La donna del lago with more beauty and erotic charge, from the dark velvety depths to the brilliant top notes … a wonderful CD to combat a bad mood on a rainy Sunday afternoons …”, while the Rossini expert Richard Osborne, writing in Gramophone observed that: “The singing of Viennese countertenor Max Emmanuel Cencic is distinguished by good rhythm, crisp divisions and clear, expressive word use. The range these roles require sits comfortably on his voice. The G below the stave is rounded and full, the two octaves beyond are clear and bright … Cencic's musicianship is generally impeccable: a tribute to the values instilled in him during his time in the Vienna Boys' Choir which he left in 1992, nine years before his decision to ‘re-create’ himself as a countertenor.”
After that foray into the early Romantic era -- heroic arias written for female mezzo sopranos to perform in male disguise – Cencic returns to core countertenor repertoire with this programme of Handel. When Cencic performed the role of Sesto in Giulio Cesare on stage in Toulouse in 2006, ResMusica described him as a “true phenomenon”.
Handel retains a prominent position in Cencic’s performance schedule. Among operas by the composer that he has performed are Giulio Cesare, Tamerlano, Fernando, Serse, Ottone and Faramondo – his complete Virgin Classics recording of this work was designated a Diapason ‘Découverte’ in March 2009, also being selected for Gramophone’s Editor’s Choice in July 2009. The Daily Telegraph wrote of the recording that: “The cast is notable for the flamboyant contributions of the impressive young countertenors Max Emanuel Cencic (in the title role) and Philippe Jaroussky. Strongly recommended to diehard Handel fans.”
Imeneo HWV 41 (1740) : Sorge nell'alma mia
Floridante HWV 14 (1721) : Alma mia
Arianna in Creta: Salda quercia, inerta balza
Tamerlano HWV 18 (1724) : Benché mi sprezzi
Serse HWV 40 (1738) : Se bramate d'amar chi vi sdegna
Amadigi di Gaula HWV 11 (1715) : Pena tiranna
Arianna in Creta HWV 32 (1734) : Qual leon che fere irato
Parnasso in festa HWV 73 : Non tardate Fauni ancora
Agrippina HWV 6 (1709) : Come nube, che fugge dal vento
Radamisto HWV 12a (1720) : Ombra cara
Orlando HWV 31 (1733) : Verdi allori
Parnasso in festa: Lunga serie d'alti eroi
5th March 2010
“Cencic possesses a poise and flexibility of tone which bestows a calm nobility even during the more animated passages of 'Salda Quercia, in Erta Balza' from Arianna In Creta; while 'Pena Tiranna' from Amadigi Di Gaula and 'Ombra Cara' from Radamisto are occupied with a courtly grace.”
8th April 2010
“Cencic's powerhouse countertenor is compellingly beautiful but also phenomenally androgynous...Just when you think Cencic is indulging in too much bravura, he stops you in your tracks with slow arias...sung with an unaffected simplicity...Intelligent, provocative stuff, and absolutely outstanding.”
“Cencic's almost reckless brilliance is immediately on show in the ferocious 'Sorge nell'alma mia'...as a portrait of jealous frustration this is startlingly vivid, with hyperactive Barocchisti dancing as if on hot coals...This is a thrilling Handel recital, with Fasolis and his band complementing Cencic in sensitivity and virtuosity.”
“...even Handel's longest-standing fans may find themselves marvelling anew at their composer's encyclopaedic mastery of the vocal melody...Cencic shows himself exceptionally alert to vocal colour and capable of tinting and illuminating the words without ever pulling the phrases out of shape. On the simplest level, he makes these tunes irresistable.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.