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Handel - Mezzo Soprano Opera Arias
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.”
“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.” The Independent, 5th March 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.” The Guardian, 8th April 2010 *****
“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.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2010
“...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.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2010 *****
BBC Music Magazine
Opera Choice - August 2010
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The late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson was one of the finest artists of our time. A sensuous and noble singer, the intensity of her interpretations, particularly in Baroque roles, was supreme. Critics worldwide have grasped for superlatives to describe her art. This CD captured Lorraine’s unanimously acclaimed portrayal of Irene in Handel’s oratorio Theodora – “one of the most vocally beautiful and dramatically committed characterizations imaginable” according to The Independent on Sunday – which she sang at Glyndebourne, supported by the same forces as here, Harry Bicket and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. The hybrid SACD technology enhances all the vividness and beauty of Lorraine’s exceptional voice. Coupled with arias from Serse, including the evergreen Ombra mai fù, and the cantata La Lucrezia, this CD is one of the great classical releases of our time.
“Weaving together the familiar and unfamiliar, this is a collection of real light and shade, all done with awe-inspiring power and characterisation.” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2005
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