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.
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.
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.
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