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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger



 

 

 

Vanitas Vanitatum  (Vanity of Vanities) - Rome 1650
Giacomo CARISSIMI (1605-1674)
Vanitas Vanitatum II (attrib): SSATB, 2 violins and basso continuo
1. Simphonia [11'03"]; 2. Hinc, mortales [6'18"]

Marco MARAZZOLI (c.1605-1662)
Ogni nostro piacer: SSA, 2 violins and basso continuo - Cantata [13'07"]
Domenico MAZZOCCHI (1592-1665)
Da tutti gli horologi si cava moralità: Tenor and continuo (1640)  [3'36"]
Luigi ROSSI (1597-1653)
Ergi la mente al sole: SSATB, 2 Violins and continuo- Oratorio
1. Introduttione [4'09"]; 2. Io sono il sole [9'52"]
Virgilio MAZZOCCHI (1597-1646)
Sospirate bellezze: ATB - Madrigal (pub.1652)  [2'42"]
Stefano LANDI (c.1586-1639)
Superbe colli: Bass and Continuo - Arie (pub.1620)   [6'22"]
Luigi ROSSI
O si quis daret concentum: SSS, solo violin, harp and organ - Motet   [7'36"]
ANONYMOUS
Ciaccona di paradiso, e dell'Inferno: SSATB and Continuo
O che bel star
è star in Paradiso  [3'51"]
(from Canzonette spirituali, e morali, Milan 1677)
Passacalli della vita: SA and Continuo
O, come t'inganni   [4'26"]
(from Canzonette spirituali, e morali, Milan 1677)
Tragicomedia/Stephen Stubbs and Erin Headley
Recorded in the Doopsgezinde Kerk, Haarlem, The Netherlands, 2/1995
(Re-issue from Teldec 4509-98410-2)
WARNER APEX 2564 61687-2 [74'00"]


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Vanitas vanitatum or "Vanity of Vanities" apart from being the title of a composition probably by Carissimi, applies to a mode of thinking in Rome particularly, where man should turn his mind from worldly things and towards God; all is vanity and illusion. This collection of composers was much taken with the precepts of these ideals and produced very beautifully crafted rhetorical and self-commanding works. The style throughout is Italian early baroque and typically flowery. The works of Carissimi, Rossi and Landi are comparatively familiar in this period, but I must admit to not knowing of Marazzoli and the brothers Mazzocchi, Domenico being a priest and a much-admired musician, whilst Virgilio was the musical director of the Capella Giulia at St. Peter's. The type of music, given a common theme is very similar throughout, although the varied voices and instruments give some relief from sameness. Far better though to use the disc to sample different verses quite separately rather than in one whole, otherwise a degree of ennui can easily follow. 

With artists of the calibre of Tragicomedia, we have the best of every world, and both the singing and the playing are exemplary and tasteful. The interpretations are well presented with a lightness of touch and rhythm which complements the ornamentation within the pieces. The instrumentation particularly is difficult, and extremely well played, whilst the singers have to employ many vocal dexterities to cope with the florid demands of the music and period; this is very evident in the pieces demanding solo voices involving the tenor and bass, but all members acquit themselves well. The instrumental ensemble gives a good example of the sound of various renaissance instrumental combinations, involving lirone, archlute and arpa doppia in addition to violins, viols and organ. The recording throughout is extremely good with excellent tonal balance and an ideal ambience from the Doopsgezinde Kerk in Haarlem. 

The booklet is quite remarkable for a budget recording; all the words are given in Italian (the language of the recording) but also with sensible and well-versed English translations by Richard Abrams, Tim Carter and Margaret Mabbett. There is also a full description of the composers in the context of the period, this first section written by Erin Headley being provided with French and German translations from the English. The artists who perform in each piece are identified, as are the instrumentalists. It is not clear, however, which of the two directors, Stephen Stubbs or Erin Headley, is responsible for which piece.   

All in all, a delightful disc which I am sure will appeal to anyone interested in this period of Italian music. Particularly at budget price it should also allow these lesser known works to reach a wider audience. Thoroughly recommended. 

John Portwood 

 

 



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