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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful countertenor, 13 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Cantatas (Max Emanuel Cencic/ Ornamente 99/ Karsten Erik Ose) (Capriccio: C7142) (Audio CD)
This set comprises 3 CDs, one each devoted to cantatas by Antonio Vivaldi, Domenico Scarlatti and Antonio Caldara and a DVD offering a portrait of the countertenor Max Emanuel Cencic. I would recommend watching the DVD first as it gives a wonderful background to the career of the singer. He was born in 1976 in Zagreb to a conductor father and opera singer mother. An early visit, as a child, to a performance of Mozart's Magic flute aroused a fascination with the coloratura aria of the Queen of the Night, and stirred an interest in singing. We are given short excerpts of filmed performances of him as a child performing in various concerts. He eventually became a child-star, taking part in opera and became a member of the famous Vienna Boy's Choir. Tours followed, and he particularly liked the reception he received in Japan. As he got older, he came to the realization that his voice would remain soprano, so he studied the countertenor repertoire. He toured Japan, Europe and America. In 1995 he performed the part of Amor in Gluck's Orfeo, in Vienna.

He is interviewed in what appears to be his flat, dressed in ostentatious attire, against a backdrop of his CD collection. He relates how he eventually suffered a crisis of identity and this resulted in depression, and he had to cancel a tour of Japan half-way through. The documentary then charts his efforts at a comeback and the rebuilding of his career. A performance in Basel in Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea earned him `Best New Singer of the Year 2003' from German music critics. He refers to himself as a male mezzo-soprano.The DVD also shows him in performance. We get glimpses of him shopping, cooking and entertaining friends and family to dinner.

Cencic is accompanied on this CD by the baroque group Ornamente 99, under the direction of Karsten Erik Ose. The group provides excellent light rhythmical accompaniment throughout, never sounding heavy and tedious. In the Vivaldi aria `Ah, ch'infelice sempre' from the cantata Cessate, omai cessate for instance, they provide a beautiful pointed accompaniment. The cantatas from all three composers explore the full range of human emotions. Centric meets the challenges with brilliant technique and beauty of tone. His voice offers the listener a wide spectrum of colour. Here is a singer who is totally comfortable within his range. Note his range and virtuosity in the aria `Nell' orrido albergo' again from Cessata, omai cessate. I love the beautiful clear florid passages in Scarlatti's aria `Se mi dirai' from the Cantata Tinte a note di sangue. He has wonderful smooth legato in the aria `Non v'e pena' from the cantata of the same name by Caldara. Here, there is a wonderful interplay between the singer and instrumentalists.

Production is excellent. The acoustic is warm and bright allowing the textures of the music to emerge with clarity and definition. Booklet notes are informative. Full libretti are included. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this set and would have no qualms in giving it a five-star recommendation.
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