> Niccolo Jommelli [PW]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb






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Niccolò JOMMELLI

La Passione di Nostro Signore Gesù Cristo (1749)
Parte Prima CD 1
1. Overture
2. Recit: Dove son! Dove corro?
3. Aria: Giacché mi tremi in seno
4. Recit: Ma qual dolente stuolo
5. Chorus: Quanto costa il tuo delitto
6. Recit: Maddalena, Giovanni
7. Aria: Vorrei dirti il mio dolore
8. Recit: O più di noi felice
9. Aria: Torbido mar che freme
10. Recit: O barbari! O crudeli
11. Recit: Altri gli svelle
12. Aria: Come, vista di pene si fiere
13. Recit: E la Madre frattanto
14. Aria: Potea quel pianto
15. Recit: Come inventar potea
16. Aria: Tu nel duol felice sei
17. Recit: Dopo un pegno sì grande
18. Duet: Vi sento, o Dio, vi sento
19. Chorus: Di qual sangue mortale
Parte Seconda CD 2
1. Recit: Ed insepolto ancora
2. Aria: Retornerà tra voi
3. Recit: Qual terribil vendetta
4. Aria: All’ idea de’ tuoi perigli
5. Recit: Pur dovrebbe in tal giorno
6. Aria: Dovunque il guardo io giro
7. Recit: Giovanni, anchio lo so
8. Aria: A’ passi erranti
9. Recit: Non senza guida
10. Aria: Se a librarsi in mezzo all’onde
11. Recit: Ah dal felice marmo
12. Chorus: Santa speme
Anke Herrmann - Maddalena (soprano)
Debora Bernesi - Giovanni (mezzo soprano)
Jeffrey Francis - Pietro (tenor)
Maurizio Picconi - Guiseppe d’Arimatea (baritone)
Ensemble Eufonia and Ensemble vocale Sigismondo D’India - Coro dei seguaci di Cristo
Berliner Barock Akademie (Midori Seiler - leader)
Conducted by Alessandro de Marchi
Recordings made in the Oratorio dell’Immacoletta, Palermo
31 March to 4 April 1996
K617 K617063 [CD 1 Parte Prima 79.04; CD 2 Parte Seconda 46.30]

 

Experience Classicsonline

K617 really make a feature of the elegance of their packaging and, when they have a good recording, it adds something to the feel of the product. This one is very successful, and starts with the surprise of removing the CD box from its outer sleeve; the CD box cover is entirely black, with a large pendant jewel depicted in the middle with the name of the work forming a curve of small white letters beneath it. The effect is very stylish. The same goes for the extensive booklet with an excellent essay about Jommelli by the exotically named Marita Petzold McClymonds. Unlike many K617 discs, this essay was originally written in English, with the French and Italian versions being translations. It is therefore much better than many on this label. Alessandro de Marchi provides extensive notes about the interpretation and performance, and there are full texts and translations.

Niccolò Jommelli is a composer whose significance in his own time has strangely not endured. His importance as an innovator in the field of opera is probably as significant as that of Gluck, in the generation immediately following. He was particularly important in the development of orchestrally accompanied recitative, a feature that is apparent throughout this oratorio. Indeed, the orchestral importance is one of the highlights of the disc, for, while the singing is excellent, the playing of the Berliner Barock Akademie is outstanding. (Sample 1) There are also several excellently played aria obbligatos. This is the second feature of Jommelli’s writing that comes across as reason for surprise at his neglect. The writing in his arias is both melodically beautiful and extensively developed; many of the arias are seven or eight minutes long, yet with no padding of sequences. The demands that this places on the soloists is considerable, and they are a uniformly excellent group, Anke Herrmann and Jeffrey Francis in particular rising to the challenge of some exceptional demands with panache. (sample 2)

The chorus has comparatively little to do, but sings with a vivid sound and the clear, flexible Italian of a native group. Throughout, Alessandro de Marchi maintains a firm control of the pacing and flow. This is especially important in the recitatives, through which most of the narrative is conveyed. Unlike conventional ‘recitativo seco’ accompanied by continuo, who are free to follow the singer with comparative ease, the demands of the orchestrally accompanied recits create a different balance between the freedom of the singer to stress and pace the text as he or she wishes, and the ensemble tautness required of an accompanying band. While it is easy enough to maintain ensemble through careful rehearsal, maintaining freedom in this situation is quite a different story. This is possibly the most laudable aspect of de Marchi’s direction. (sample 3).

When we are so used to hearing the passion story in the manner of Lutheran renditions of which Bach is the zenith, the operatic aspects of the Italian version create quite a different impression. Indeed, from the music alone, one would never know that this was not a secular opera. Theological complaints notwithstanding, this does the music something of a service, for it is, after all, the rendition of a dramatic story, so the operatic style seems completely appropriate. Why the Roman authorities had such a problem with the idea is hard to understand given music of this effectiveness and beauty. Given this convincing interpretation and excellent performance, this is a work well worth rediscovering.

Peter Wells



 



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