First published in the Guardian on 19 January, 2017
Nuria Rial/Valer Sabadus/Basel Chamber Orchestra (Sony)
Nuria Rial is a Catalan baroque soprano whom I wish we heard more of in the UK. Her voice is pristine, gracious, featherweight; she shapes her lines with an understated finesse that sounds as natural as the wind. All of which comes across beautifully on this disc, and yet the overall impact is a little underwhelming. She teams up with countertenor Valer Sabadus — also nimble and elegant but a less distinctive voice especially in his lower range — for duets and arias from Italian oratorios 1670-1770 including gems by Porpora, Lotti, Torelli, Gabrielli and Alessandro Scarlatti. The duos sound sumptuous, a gorgeous vocal blend, but for the most part the singers treat the material as non-declamatory and reflective rather than dramatic. It all starts to sound lukewarm, and the polished Basel orchestra doesn’t help — no urgency, no grit, no swing, deadly polite.