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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

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Dolci miei sospiri - Arie antiche
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643)
Dolci miei sospiri (1607) [03:31]
Damigella tutta bella (1607) [01:44]
Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643)
Entro nave dorata (1630) [02:36]
O mio cor (1630) [07:04]
Claudio MONTEVERDI
Quando l'alba in oriente (1607) [03:24]
Confitebor tibi Domine (1640/41) [06:26]
John DOWLAND (1563-1626)
In darkness let me dwell (1610) [04:21]
Come again, sweet love (1597) [02:39]
If my complaints (1597) [03:25]
Go crystal tears (1597) [04:06]
Sigismondo D'INDIA (1582?-1629?)
Apertamente dice la gente (1609) [01:38]
Piangono al pianger mio (1609) [04:17]
Donna l' vorrei dir molto (1609) [01:41]
Giulio CACCINI (1545?-1618)
Dite o del foco mio (1614) [02:56]
Amarilli mia bella (1602) [03:05]
Robert JONES (1597-1615)
Ite caldi sospiri (1609) [02:42]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Mi palpita il cor, cantata (HWV 132) [09:00]
Giacomo CARISSIMI (1605-1674)
Apritevi inferni, cantata [07:46]
William Matteuzzi (tenor); Hubert Hoffmann (archlute)
Münchner Barocksolisten (on period instruments)/Hans Ludwig Hirsch
rec. October 1991, Alte Evangelische Kirche, Diessen am Ammersee, Germany. DDD
ARTS 47711-2 [72:29]

 

 

This disc brings repertoire from the 17th and early 18th century which is presented as examples of 'bel canto', as Hans Ludwig Hirsch indicates by entitling his programme notes 'A Voce sola or From the birth of bel canto'. It reflects the musicological views of the early 20th century, when the term 'bel canto' was used to contrast the style of Italian composing of the 1630's and 40's with the 'stilo rappresentativo' of the earlier decades. But as a term to characterise a certain style of singing it came only in use in the 20th century. To suggest Caccini, in his writings, laid the foundations of 'bel canto' singing is therefore rather confusing. The more so as it is mostly associated with the style of singing of the early 19th century, in particular in operas by Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti. And the confusion is even enhanced by the credentials of the singer on this disc, William Matteuzzi. In the time this recording was made he was considered a specialist in the early 19th century opera, and was particularly praised for his remarkably high tessitura. But there is a fundamental difference between the early 19th-century 'bel canto' and the style of singing of the early 17th century. The ideal of the early 17th century was 'recitar cantando', speechlike singing. Matteuzzi's performances are far off this ideal.

The main problem is that the text isn't paid attention to enough. There is little differentiation between single words and syllables and the notes set to them. Even in long melismas most notes are sung the same way which makes them sound like the bleating of a goat, in particular as Matteuzzi mostly sings them forte. And when the tempo is fast, his voice sounds unpleasantly sharp, and his singing becomes almost aggressive. By far the worst performance on this disc is Monteverdi's 'Confitebor tibi, Domine'. The very fast tempo of the main section gets him into trouble: he manages to sing the notes right, but there is no proper phrasing here nor a real interpretation of the text.

The last piece of this disc, Carissimi's cantata 'Apritevi inferni', also demonstrates the shortcomings of Matteuzzi's singing. It requires a very agile voice and the ability to switch from the lower into the higher register very quickly, which Matteuzzi hardly manages. And the way he ends the piece with a high note sung fortissimo and held much longer than needed is just tasteless.

In addition the playing of the ensemble is not more than mediocre. The tendency to mess with the tempi - Monteverdi's 'Confitebor' is a good example of this - is annoying.

Considering the date of the recording as given in the booklet I assumed it had been released earlier, but the record company informed me it hasn't. This makes it even more surprising that it is released now and that the booklet contains an out of date essay about the music. Some recordings of the 1980's and 1990's are well worth to be (re)issued. Some of them are historically interesting in that they show how early music was interpreted at the time. Many of them are musically still satisfying as well. But when this programme was recorded, it was already out of step with the interpretation of early music at the time. In those days singers like Nigel Rogers, René Jacobs and Max van Egmond were much better able to sing this kind of repertoire, and even in previous times there were singers who surpassed Matteuzzi's singing here, like the British countertenor Alfred Deller. Therefore I can't see any justification for releasing this recording nor any reason to buy it.

The booklet contains the lyrics in their original language, but without translations. Neither the names of the players in the ensemble nor the instruments used are listed.

 

Johan van Veen

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