Schubert sonatas

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The Italian Dramatic Lament
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643)
Lamento d’Arianna [10:47]
Jacopo PERI (1561-1633)
Al fonte al prato [01:44]
Giovanni Girolamo KAPSBERGER (c.1575-c.1661)
Sferraina (from Libro Quarto) [03:37], Capona (from Libro Quarto) [03:21]
Lungi dal vostro lume [02:54]
Giulio CACCINI (1545-1618)
Vedrò ’l mio sol [04:01]
Se tu parti da me [04:14]
Si dolce è il tormento [04:25]
Passacaglia (from Libro Quarto [09:13]
Amarilli [03:16]
Richardo ROGNIONO (fl. c.1620)
Ancor che col partire [02:56]
Uccidimi dolore [09:38]
Amor ch’attendi [01:56]
The Catacoustic Consort (Annalisa Pappano, Artistic Director, lirone and treble viola da gamba, Catherine Webster, soprano, Michael Leopold, theorbo, Becky Baxter, baroque triple harp)
rec. 29 April-2 May 2004, St. John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada. DDD
NAXOS 8.557538 [62:03]



A programme of laments, even dramatic ones, might sound daunting, but such is the variety of pacing and expression this group finds in those recorded here that one’s fears are set aside. Besides, there a few cheats: Peri’s “Al fonte al prato” is a jolly piece that got in by mistake and, while the words of “Amor ch’attendi” might suggest lament-like treatment, Caccini thought otherwise so this makes a lively end to the disc. Then there are four instrumental pieces slipped in along the way, by Kapsberger and Rogniono; the former’s Passacaglia is big and serious but the others have a tripping charm and the “Sferraina” shows minimalism to have been alive and well in the early 17th century – and distinctly more attractive than it is today.

The bulk of the programme falls on the shoulders of the soprano, Catherine Webster, who proves well able to sustain it. This is a typical “early music” voice, sweet and girlish in its upper register – but also able to express fiery passion without a suspicion that a 19th century operatic voice is lurking in the shadows – and stronger in her lower register with a tough of chest tone. There is none of the nasality which some singers have essayed in the name of authenticity. Helped by her inventive accompanists she encompasses a wide range of expression with complete spontaneity. It can never be insisted too much that this early music, despite its apparently limited means, is frequently sumptuous in effect, ironically more so than in latter-day “elaborations”. The student who knows Caccini’s “Amarilli” only with Parisotti’s plodding piano accompaniment (the “Arie antiche” are still going strong in Italian conservatoires, I’m afraid) will be amazed at the richness and expressiveness of the version presented here.

The group’s Artistic Director, Annalisa Pappano, contributes a good general introduction to the music, but the non-specialist listeners at whom this bargain issue is presumably aimed might have appreciated some comments on the individual pieces. I suppose there was no space. For this same reason, listeners wishing texts and translations are invited to pull them down from the Naxos site. I have already expressed my reserves on Naxos’s policy and I should be sorry if a disc potentially capable of reaching listeners who do not normally go for this repertoire – it is a very attractive programme excellently performed – should instead be limited to those with the necessary background knowledge to deal with it. That apart, it’s a lovely disc. If the Catacoustic Consort record more - I certainly hope they will), perhaps next time they’ll tell us what “Catacoustic” means.

Christopher Howell

see also Review by Robert Hugill




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