This premiere recording of The Raising of Lazarus
(1779) was an exhilarating surprise and one is swept along by the committed
engagement of all concerned. There is a remarkably comprehensive CD-ROM
included, which makes this an unmissable recommendation. It begins with
a lively Sinfonia and maintaining a forward pulse to a jubilant thanksgiving
to celebrate victory over Death.
Its Paduan composer (1757-1828) was unknown to me and is stylistically 'on the cusp between classical and romantic'. First performed in Padua on 26 March 1779, La resurrezione di Lazzaro, his first sacred music, has a narrative structure, with a text by an unknown author, which describes how the characters interact, suffer and find hope and ultimate assurance in Christ. Arias heighten the intensity of the developing story. Jesus Christ (originally a castrato) and Magdalene are both sopranos, Martha a contralto. St Thomas (tenor) has a prominent role and Lazarus is given a bass voice; each is individually characterised in interesting recitatives (many with orchestral accompaniment) and expressive arias. All are strong singers, spot on with the conductor's forward thrust, and comfortable with the baroque flourishes and cadenzas. The choral sections are dramatic and concise. This recording should lead to a reassessment of this composer and to performances elsewhere.
The notes (Mazzi & Parisini) are uncommonly thorough and illuminating, and the whole performance is brought to life under Bressan's direction. One is swept along by the committed engagement of all concerned. The church acoustic is ideal, and this is an admirable production, with full texts and English translations provided, of course!
For those who have many hours to devote to exploring every aspect of life in Padua, Calegari himself and all the musicological puzzles entailed in preparing such a work for modern performance, there is a remarkably comprehensive CD-ROM included, which makes this an unmissable recommendation, cheap at the price.
Peter Grahame Woolf