The Trials of Tenducci, A Castrato in Ireland – exploring musical connections

Tara Erraught, Peter Whelan and the Irish Baroque Orchestra evoke Dublin in the 1700s

The Trials of Tenducci
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Artist: Tara Erraught, Irish Baroque Orchestra/Peter Whelan
Genre: Classical
Label: Linn Records CKD 639

The latest CD from the Irish Baroque Orchestra and artistic director Peter Whelan focuses on the Irish musical connections of the castrato Giusto Ferdinando Tenducci. The programme reflects Whelan's passion for widening our perceptions of musical life in 18th-century Dublin.

So we get a symphony by the Brussels-born Pierre van Maldere, who spent some time in the Irish capital, arias by Thomas Arne, whose opera Artaxerxes was a great showcase for Tenducci, an overture and Irish medley by Tommaso Giordani, teacher of John Field, as well as pieces by composer and oboist Johann Christian Fischer and composer Johann Christian Bach, with whom Tenducci also worked.

Mozart's Exsultate, jubilate is offered as a substitute for a now-lost work Mozart wrote for the castrato. Whelan handles the music with typically invigorating drive and, like the agile mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught, responds to the album's classical treatment of Irish tunes without undue sentimentality.

There are no startling creative revelations in this mostly easy-on-the-ear music. But it is good to be reminded how far the cultural vitality of 18th-century Dublin reached beyond the first performance of Handel’s Messiah. Artaxerxes had a run of 33 performances in 1765 and 1766.

Michael Dervan

Michael Dervan

Michael Dervan is a music critic and Irish Times contributor