Totus amore Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713) Sonata for 2 violins and bc in d minor, op. 1,11 [06:03] Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725) Totus amore languens, motet [10:35] Giovanni Battista BASSANI (1654-1716) Salve Regina, antiphon [07:03] Alessandro SCARLATTI Follia in d minor, variations for keyboard [07:34] Infirmata vulnerata, motet [13:29] Arcangelo CORELLI Sonata for violin and bc in D, op. 5/1 [11:44] Alessandro STRADELLA O vos omnes [09:26]
Ryland Angel (alto)
Les Folies Françoises (Patrick Cohën-Akenine (violin); Hélène Houzel (violin);
François Poly (cello); Pascal Monteilhet (theorbo); Béatrice Martin (harpsichord,
rec. July 2003, Douai Abbey, Upper Woolhampton, Berkshire, UK. DDD DEUX-ELLES
It is difficult to find the denominator of the programme on this
disc. All music is written by Italian composers somewhere around
1700. Nearly all of them worked in Rome, Giovanni Battista Bassani
being the exception: he was called 'Bassani of Ferrara', as he
played an important role in the musical life of that city. The
character of the music performed here is also very different:
chamber music by Corelli, two sacred vocal works and a keyboard
piece by Alessandro Scarlatti and two sacred works by Bassani
and Stradella respectively. Although Alessandro Scarlatti is
the only composer mentioned at the front of the disc, in fact
his pieces take less than half of the programme.
This seeming lack of a clear programmatic concept takes nothing away of the virtues
of this recording, which is an attractive mixture of rather well-known pieces
and compositions which are far less frequently performed.
The best-known works are the sonatas by Corelli. Even so, especially the trio
sonatas are not that often performed and recorded, and the number of really satisfying
recordings is rather small. Les Folies Françoise give a very fine performance
of the Sonata No. 11 from the first opus Corelli published. The contrasts between
the movements of this sonata, which follows the pattern of the sonata da chiesa,
are well realised. In the basso continuo we hear an organ, although that instrument
is nowhere mentioned. The Op. 5 is more popular, and there are a number of very
good versions available. Here the first sonata from the collection is given a
very colourful and gestural performance by Patrick Cohën-Akenine.
The two motets by Alessandro Scarlatti are similar in character. In that time
the term 'motet' was used for a composition with a sacred, but non-liturgical
text in Latin. Musically the motets are not very different from the secular cantatas
of which Scarlatti also composed a large number. Sometimes the texts are not
that different either. That is especially the case in the best-known of the two,
'Infirmata vulnerata', a motet about a 'blessed soul' tormented by love. A line
like "O dear, o sweet love, how can you be so cruel to me" could easily
be used in a secular cantata as well. And there is no difference in the use of
'affetti' either. Scarlatti uses the voice very effectively, for instance when
he sets the word 'gravis' (harsh) to a low note. For many male altos this is
rather uncomfortable, if they only use their head voice - as most altos in the
Anglo-Saxon tradition do. But although Ryland Angel is from that tradition too,
I notice with satisfaction that he goes into his chest register to sing the lowest
notes, which makes those particularly striking. And he does so with great ease.
Far lesser-known, but certainly not less in quality is the other motet by Scarlatti,
which gave this disc its title: 'Totus amore languens'. It is from Scarlatti's
only collection of sacred music ever published, 'Concerti sacri' (1707/08). This
motet is a contemplation of the Holy Eucharist. The first section sets the tone: "Wholly
languishing in love and inflamed with ardour for the sacrament at the altar,
the soul that was faithful burned and spoke in rapt ecstasy".
Ecstasy is also characteristic of many pieces about the Virgin Mary. Giovanni
Battista Bassani's setting of the Salve Regina is no exception. In the tracklist
this is called a 'motet', but in fact it is an antiphon, and part of the liturgy.
Like Alessandro Scarlatti, Bassani makes use of the low register of the singer's
voice, for instance on the word "flentes" (weep). In this part of the
work Bassani uses some chromaticism.
The last item is by Alessandro Stradella, like Scarlatti mostly famous for his
secular cantatas. 'O vos omnes' is not, as one would expect, set on the well-known
text from the Lamentations of Jeremiah and part of the liturgy for Holy Week
(the fifth of the nine responsories for Matins of Holy Saturday). It is a free
text, using elements from the Song of Songs, and is a kind of love song for "sweetest
Jesus, beloved Christ". It says farewell to "worldly glory": "only
the love of Jesus delights me, in him I live, die and find rest". It closes
with an 'Alleluia', as many motets of the time.
As I have already indicated I am pleased by this recording. The instrumentalists,
who give such fine interpretations of Corelli's sonatas, also contribute to the
expression in the vocal items. And I am impressed by the singing of Ryland Angel,
whom - as far as I can remember - I haven't heard before, but definitely hope
to hear more often. He has a beautiful and flexible voice, and expresses the
emotions in the texts very well. He also deals admirably with the dramatic contrasts
in some pieces, like 'Infirmata vulnerata'. But he could use the messa di
voce more often and be a bit more generous in the use of ornamentation. As
a result the longer notes would be somewhat less static than they sometimes are
here. I also would like him to take a bit more rhythmic freedom in the recitatives.
This is a most enjoyable recording which I wholeheartedly recommend for the quality
of music and performance.
Johan van Veen
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