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Giovanni Girolami KAPSBERGER (1580-1651)
Libro Secondo d’Arie - Songs of Human and Divine Love (1623): Voi, che dietro a fallaci [3.28]; Alma che fai che pensi [3.17]; Tu dormi [2.00]; Pargoletto son io [2.31]; I’vo piangendo I miei [5.08]; Dulcissimo Signore [4.30]; T’inaspri á miei lamenti [2.52]; Dunque con stile lieto [2.15]; Pietea di chi si more [2.40]; Popol diletta mio [1.55]; Ancora il Re nasce piangendo in terra [5.13]; O come in van credei [3.18]; Perché pieta [2.19]; Corrente (1628) [2.45]
Bellerofonte CASTOLDI (b. 1622) Sonata 2a [1.36]; Mustazzin corrente [1.30];
ANON (b. c.1620) Canzona [2.30]; Toccata [1.55]
Gian Paolo Fagotto (tenor); Janet Youngsdahl (soprano); Julie Harris (soprano); Paul Grindley (bass)
Victor Coelho (archlute; theorbo); David Dolata (theorbo); Neil Cockburn (harpsichord)
Il Furioso/Victor Coelho
rec. Wyatt Recital Hall, Mount Royal College, Calgary, Alberta, 3-7 June 2004.
TOCCATA TOCC 0027 [54.07]

Experience Classicsonline


 

When do you think baroque music, as we now call it, actually started? A daft question you might say but what about 1605, the date of Monteverdi’s 5th Book of madrigals? Why? The book starts in what is known as the style antico but by the end we have come ‘up to date’. Instrumental parts like the basso continuo become obligatory for the last six pieces. Gradually in his remaining books the idea of an aria being accompanied by written out instrumental sections becomes standard. There’s only a fine line that separates Arias as here from Madrigals. By 1623, the date of Kapsberger’s book, recorded here, this format was fairly commonplace - on the continent anyway. With one voice or possibly two, more dramatic word-setting is possible. Kapsberger’s vocal music has been little acclaimed but his lute music is available on disc. This disc undoubtedly helps to redress the balance.

Who was Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger? His biography can be briefly summed up as of German extraction but born in Venice. He was one of the most successful musicians of his generation, both as a performer on the lute and theorbo and as composer. He ended up working for Pope Urban VIII in Rome. His output covers all genres including Mass settings. His reputation waned after his death and has remained in obscurity until relatively recent times.

Kapsberger’s style is mostly highly ornamental and recitativic, demanding vocal agility and virtuosity of his performers. In addition he requires that very rare creature, a basso profundo. We have one here in the shape of the Canadian Paul Grindley. This singer opens the disc and at first my heart sank at what I felt was too doleful a tone. However it didn’t take me long to ‘acclimatise’ and indeed really enjoy his contribution. Of the sopranos I rather prefer the lighter Julie Harris who, sadly, is only allocated three works here. Generally speaking I like the singers who capture the challenges and beauties convincingly. The instrumental work is, I feel, exemplary and I like the subtle changes of instrumentation within the arias, especially the sometimes sudden removal of the harpsichord leaving the archlute dramatically alone.

The excellent booklet essay by Victor Coelho, who also leads the group Il Furioso points out that the vocal items as recorded can be divided into three sections as follows: Tracks 1-7 (texts spoken by God to the sinner), tracks 8-12 (The lamenting Magdalene), tracks 13-19, (Moses and other voices of the prophets). He also explains that this is not the way the ‘arias’ were presented in the original publication. Indeed the entire book has not been recorded: five pieces are missing. A curious anomaly, you might think, especially as the disc runs in at less than an hour. However Coelho explains that he wanted to record "those pieces which stand out from a musical and literally stand-point". Also he wanted "to record all of the duets and also works which offered technical challenges, especially textual ones".

And what texts too! Kapsberger tackles some difficult, thought-provoking and yes, deeply philosophical poems by men of the calibre of Petrarch. Others are by lesser-known figures, Gabriello Chiabrera (1619) and Giambattista Marino (1614). An example of the mood of the words can be summed up in ‘Tu dormi’: "You sleep, my soul/You sleep, alas, and don’t hear God’s high and just words / How will you suffer, cruel heart / Who in vain calls one who is dying for you". Especially striking is the last aria, a duet, with its everlasting cry of "Why are my long suffering / And my fervent prayers / Denied mercy?"

Variety is achieved within the disc by first having a different voice or group of voices perform each song and secondly by interspersing the vocal items with contemporary solo lute pieces - a very happy mix.

I would like to congratulate Toccata as this is as good a recording of early music as I have ever heard. The small instrumental group are widely, but naturally, spaced across the stereo picture, superbly balanced and wonderfully clear. The vocalists are placed centre-stage. The bass notes ring out with true ambience, and the theorbo and archlute are recorded intimately so that every note is clear, but not unnaturally so.

It’s true that this music is a curious by-way of the early baroque. Nevertheless Kapsberger is worth investigating and I think that he should rank as an especially significant figure. Let’s hope for more.

Gary Higginson

 

 

 

 


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