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Philippe Jaroussky Sings J. C. Bach

available at Amazon
Johann Christian Bach, La dolce fiamma, P. Jaroussky, Le Cercle de l'Harmonie, J. Rhorer

(released on January 12, 2010)
Virgin 5099969456404 | 63'08"
French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky has the most feminine sound to his voice of active countertenors today, followed closely by Iestyn Davies. On last year's recording of Vivaldi's La fida ninfa, Jaroussky's tone struck my ears as "pretty if a little breathy," and in spite of really enjoying his new disc -- a lovely selection of arias from operas by Johann Christian Bach -- I cannot help but wonder how his voice would carry in live performance without close miking. Jaroussky first made it onto my radar screen through media attention in 2008, and his fame continues to increase in the press -- see the profile on him by Bertrand Dermoncourt in L'Express and another one more recently in the Sydney Morning Herald. He has certainly been part of recent marketing trends in classical music, moving product with the help of attractive pictures of star musicians. Jaroussky's good looks are happily not the only reason he has found success, so good for him.

J. Chr. Bach, Johann Sebastian's globe-trotting son who worked in Italy, Paris, and most famously London, is a vastly underrated composer, both for his instrumental works and especially for his operas, which are just now becoming known again (Christophe Rousset mounted Temistocle a few years ago). Jaroussky claims a long-held admiration for Bach and certainly makes a case for reviving the composer's operas, late examples of a dying genre, opera seria, when they were written. He sings these excerpts, written both during Bach's time in Italy and in London, with an admirable sense of melodic line and an always beautiful tone and daring embellishments, if not always clear and idiomatic Italian. Jérémie Rhorer keeps his period instrument group, Le Cercle de l'Harmonie, on the controlled and soft side, to accommodate the size of Jaroussky's voice, with fortepiano appropriately replacing the harpsichord in the two concert arias that are included. Recommended both for musical beauty and the interest of hearing this neglected composer's works.

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