Until the 1980s Johann Adolf Hasse remained a historical footnote – a famous and prolific opera composer in his day of whom one had hardly heard a note. Then in 1986, William Christie made a landmark recording of Cleofide with an exotic line up of four counter-tenors and he was gradually rediscovered. Fast-forward to today and counter-tenors are superstars and major labels release whole recitals of Hasse – who’d have thought?
Max Emanuel Cencic was first heard as first boy on Solti’s 1991 Die Zauberflöte and has since developed into one of those aforesaid superstars. This superb recital includes seven world premiere recordings plus a mandolin concerto for instrumental interlude. Cencic’s voice is one of the richest around today with a gleaming top, a fulsome but firm bottom register and his technical facility is spectacular yet always beautifully expressive. His fiorature runs are cleanly articulated but always maintain a legato line with no nasty aspirates.
The accompaniments are bold, energetic yet elegant and technically immaculate; intonation is spot on. Theodoros Kitsos plays the mandolin concerto with limpid tone. The recording is close but not annoyingly so and wonderfully firm and weighty. Hasse’s arias rival Handel for invention but the whole operas can be a hard nut to crack. A recital like this is an ideal introduction to this towering figure of 18th-century opera.