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Cataldo AMODEI (1649-1693)
Su l’ore che l’aurora
Tra l’erbette il piè sciogliea
Colà dove il Sebeto
Lieve al piè, grave al passo (Cantata sacra per la Beatissima Vergine)
Va’, ché l’hai fatto a me
Già col manto dell’ombre
Giovanni ZAMBONI

Sonata in C minor for archlute (published 1718)
Bernardo STORACE

Passacagli sopra Alamire for harpsichord solo (published 1664)
Emma Kirkby (soprano)
Jakob Lindberg (theorbo/archlute)
Lars Ulrik Mortensen (harpsichord)
Recorded in Länna Church, Sweden, November 2002
BIS CD 1415 [78.37]


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Sicilian-born in 1649, Cataldo Vito Amodei, something of a child prodigy, entered Holy Orders in Naples. Concurrently he held teaching positions as choirmaster and in colleges. He wrote a considerable amount of sacred music for which there was seemingly an unending demand and equally it seems to have worn Amodei down because he resigned his positions in the city in 1688. His successor was the decade-younger Alessandro Scarlatti (who lasted five months). Amodei’s greatest interest was in devotional music and his Op.1 contained a number of motets for 2, 3, 4 and 5 voices (the parts of which have come down to us incomplete) .His Op.2 was printed as Cantate a voce sola in 1685 and contained thirteen pieces for soprano and basso continuo. The texts are anonymous though conventional – primarily secular and Arcadian though three are products of the devotional genre so popular at the time.

Amodei employs a rich harmonic palette throughout and often deploys rather florid, melismatic vocal lines. Su l’ore che l’aurora, the longest setting here at nearly twelve minutes in length, uses a sort of vocalise recitativo as well as colouristically and graphically word-painting through melismatic undulations. The colour he can use is, though, better heard in Tra l’erbette il piè sciogliea where he boldly colours expressive-pictorial lines, uses unaccompanied recitative passages, and spins pensive melismas with almost operatic economy. The yearning strain is completed by the finale in which, in ascending lines, in differing registers, Amodei draws to a perfect close – textual explication matched by musical understanding. Similarly a setting such as Va’, ché l’hai fatto a me is notable for its intensity and compression – and lest one gives the impression that Amodei preferred Arcadian Vocalise, he lets rip with a taxing fast section in Già col manto dell’ombre. He learned what, say Caldara learned from Alessandro Scarlatti, in terms of pictorialism and close attention to textual detail. We can hear this in the fluttering and expressive melsimatic lines of Colà dove il Sebeto.

The disc is happily rounded out with one work each by little known composers Zamboni and Storace, so little known in fact that we know neither the years of their birth nor death. Zamboni’s Sonata for archlute is in the expected five dance movements and is effectively written with a particularly lithe and free-flowing fourth-movement Sarabanda. Storace wrote his Passacagli sopra Alamire for harpsichord solo and it formed part of his only published collection – from which we know, at least, that he worked in Messina. It’s a well-argued and cogent series of variations that shows a level of invention well above the normal.

These three little-known composers receive performances of perception from three well-known interpreters of the early muse. Even Kirkby is sometimes stretched by some of Amodei’s considerable demands – in something like Va’, ché l’hai fatto a me the technical difficulties in the higher register are pronounced. Altogether however BIS have uncovered a notable composer and brought him back to sometimes startling life.

Jonathan Woolf

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