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Il più misero amante
Alessandro STRADELLA (1639-1682)
Il più misero amante, Cantata for soprano and bass continuo (c.1667-77) [8:37]
Pietro Antonio LOCATELLI (1695-1764)
Sonata No.4 Op.2 for flute and bass continuo [9:53]  
Ercole BERNABEI (1622-1687)
Dal regno d'amore, Cantata for soprano and bass continuo [6:52]  
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
All'ombra di sospetto, Cantata for soprano, flute and bass continuo [10:41]  
Pietro NARDINI (1722-1793)
Sonata in sol mag. flute and bass continuo [4:28] 
Giacomo CARISSIMI (1605-1674)
Scrivete occhi dolenti, Cantata for soprano and bass continuo (c.1650) [8:05]
Camerata Hermans; Cristina Paolucci (soprano); Fabio Ceccarelli (flute); Alessandro Montani (cello); Fabio Ciofini (harpsichord/leader)
rec. January 2006, Urbino


This is a neat and tidy examination of lesser-known works by important Italian composers. Cantatas are interspersed with sonatas in a way that’s increasingly fashionable in programmes of baroque vocal music. The glue that binds the pieces is the concept of “affetti” or affections, and its realisation in this form is via the expressive use of emotion in cantatas.

Stradella’s Il più misero amante can be roughly dated to the decade between 1667 and 1677. Stradella was a prolific composer of cantatas, generally utilising his own texts. This one conforms to the norm – a goodly dash of anguish and a final cry of despair reinforced by syncopation in the bass figures. Fortunately Stradella binds intense passages of recitative with more emotive writing to form a seamless whole.

Bernabei is the least well known of all the composers, active in Rome as an organist and subsequently as a maestro di cappella before he was poached by the court in Munich in 1774. His surviving works are few and far between and this allegorical cantata –Vice and Virtue – is rather more than the Stradella a matter of recitative and aria – which is to say it rather lacks the fluidity of the earlier work. Nevertheless only ten cantatas by him are known to have survived so it repays study.

The Vivaldi is a rare example of the Venetian cantata for voice, flute and bass continuo. The imitative passages are the most diverting moments in what is otherwise rather by-the-yard material.  Meanwhile Carissimi’s Scrivete occhi dolente, which dates from approximately 1650 is written for soprano and bass continuo and plumbs substantially greater depths. It’s written in the form of a letter, a conceit that allows considerable scope for dramatic projection – the form may be patterned after Monteverdi but the musical expression reveals Carissimi to be a master of the genre.  He oscillates freely between recitative and arioso and does so with great plangency and dramatic power.

The instrumental sonatas break up the cantatas and add interest of their own, allowing the instrumental players some freedom after their more constrained and supportive work in the vocal works. The Locatelli conforms to the “affect” principle – it reminds one rather of Handel’s Op.1 sonatas. And the Nardini is engagingly melodic; nothing here will surprise those steeped in his violin works – he writes interchangeably well for flute as for fiddle.

Cristina Paolucci sings with directness and great musicality. Her voice is light but attractively supported; no exaggeration mars her singing. She manages the fluid movement of recit-and-aria with accomplishment and brings simplicity to the athletic moments of the Carissimi – as indeed she does to its lament. Camerata Hermans takes the honours with equal distinction. The notes are to the point – texts are in Italian only. Let’s hear more from this talented group.

Jonathan Woolf




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