This recording was
first released in 1982. I assume it
must have been one of the very first
entirely devoted to the music of Barbara
Strozzi. It was followed by others,
and right now Strozzi's music is well
represented in the catalogue.
It seems quite a number
of musicians are fascinated by Barbara
Strozzi. Would her music have been paid
so much attention to if it had been
written by a man? One can only guess
but I feel the answer is 'yes'. Strozzi's
music is of a high standard, and can
easily compete with most music by male
contemporaries. Her compositions excellently
display the most striking features of
the style of the early 17th century
There is a lot of variety
and contrast between and within the
cantatas on this disc. But they all
share a strong connection between text
and music. Some words are underlined
by the use of melismas or by leaps upwards
and downwards. Dissonance and chromaticism
are frequently used to illustrate words
like 'tormento', 'morte' and 'lamenti'.
Some cantatas are very
dramatic. One of the best examples is
the 'Lamento: Su'l Rodano severo', which
isn't about (unrequited) love, as most
others are, but about the execution,
in 1642, of the courtier Henri de Cinq
Mars, under the authority of Louis XIII,
for his participation in a plot against
Richelieu. There are some similarities
here with Carissimi's famous 'Lamento
in morte di Maria Stuarda'. In this
cantata the courtier himself is speaking,
introduced by a narrator, who also concludes
the piece. The closing line "Paris trembles
and the Seine grows agitated" is underpinned
by a fast repetition of one chord in
the basso continuo.
Another example of
Strozzi's dramatic style of composition
is the first item on this disc, 'L'Astratto'.
This cantata is about the power of singing
to dispel the pain of unrequited love.
The lover several times starts singing
an aria, only to stop midway when he
is overcome by his emotions and switches
to a recitative. The alternation between
recitative, arioso and aria is one of
the most striking aspects of Barbara
Strozzi's cantatas anyway.
It is a good thing
this recording is available again. Although
I could imagine a little more contrast
here and there, on the whole this performance
is still well worth listening to. Judith
Nelson's voice has the flexibility this
music requires, and her diction is admirable.
She gets excellent support from the
basso continuo, part of which is a triple
harp which is used to great effect,
especially in the more reflective passages.
This reissue fortunately
contains the lyrics, as well as informative
liner notes. Strongly recommended.
Johan van Veen