Conductors like Rinaldo
Alessandrini have done a great deal
to put Italian music-making, particularly
Italian singing back on the map. For
many years one could pretty much rely
on any choral recording made in Italy
by Italians to be sub-standard. Such
is no longer the case, but regrettably
the improvements have not yet made it
to Genova, as these performances, interesting
as the repertoire might be, go to prove.
Antonio Caldara was
greatly admired in his day, was a fluent
and prolific composer and was recognized
over a wide span of Europe, with even
J.S. Bach making use of his music for
services in Leipzig. This collection
of sacred choral and instrumental music
is somewhat hit and miss in quality,
and is sadly done in by the almost universal
inferiority of the soloists.
Opening and instrumental
sinfonia, a meditation on the death
and burial of Christ, the disc gets
off to a hopeful start, at least in
terms of the quality of the music. There
is much drama in the score and the colorful
harmony, tense with chains of suspensions
is gripping. Unfortunately, the "Il
Cimento" orchestra has not yet
learned to play baroque strings consistently
in tune, and this flaw very quickly
detracts from the musicís enjoyment.
The mass is rather
typical of the sort of utilitarian baroque
mass settings that seemed to flow from
composersí pens like water in those
days. It is elongated by the common
practice of setting the longer Gloria
and Credo in strings of shorter, independent
movements instead of making them through-composed
as was the practice in the renaissance.
Before the final Dona nobis pacem,
Caldara seems to be doing a bit of note
spinning, and the ideas are few. Fond
of fugal writing, he tends to get carried
away with the length of things.
The disc concludes
with a nice little set of motets for
two and three solo voices with continuo.
These show a good deal more invention,
perhaps because the texts are more diverse
and lend themselves to more colorful
This disc had potential
to be quite a find. Regrettably, however,
the soloists bring the enjoyment of
the performances to a crashing halt.
The sopranos in particular simply do
not have a pleasant tone between them.
Of late I have been railing against
bad counter-tenors, and this one gets
added to my list of singers who should
go back to the baritone range.
The choral singing
is out of balance and there is practically
no unity of tone. In particular the
altos have a strident and abrasive sound
that gets into your face pretty quickly
and never leaves.
I am beginning to think
that it is simply too easy to make a
recording these days. Although there
are many well meaning performers and
ensembles, far too many discs of what
could be very interesting music are
derailed by consistently inferior performances.
Sadly, that is the case here. Pass on
this one. Wait for the Dutch to do it