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Alessandro STRADELLA (1639-1682)
Cantata for Christmas Eve: Si apra al riso ogni labro [26:39]
Sinfonia in A major [5:49]
Sinfonia in F major [11:37]
Cristina Miatello (soprano); Caterina Calvi (contralto); Roberto Abbondanza (bass)
La Magnifica Comunità/Enrico Casazza
rec. Chiesa della Santissima Trinità, Pernumia, Italy, 1999. DDD
Booklet notes in English. Texts provided but no translations.

Experience Classicsonline

This CD originally appeared on the Tactus label (TC 631901) some years ago but now has been licensed to Brilliant Classics and so is available at a bargain price. The performance of allegorical cantatas on Christmas Eve was all the rage in seventeenth and early eighteenth century Italy and many examples of the works produced are now becoming available on CD. Alessandro Stradella is possibly more famous for his rock and roll lifestyle than he is for his music. His constant philandering culminated in his death at the hands of an assassin hired by the suitor of one of the very many women he had ‘philandered’ and left pregnant.

However, put all of the grisly details of his torrid life aside and Stradella was a fine composer of some originality who wrote beautiful vocal music and opera. He was also very influential in the growth and establishment of tonality and gave the Baroque the concerto grosso form made famous by later composers such as Corelli and Handel.

Stradella was born in Rome and became a child of the conventions of middle Baroque Italy – hence the large number of vocal works in his output. The cantata on this disc, Si apra al riso ogni labro, was one of two Christmas cantatas Stradella wrote in around 1665. The instrumental forces are modest – single strings and organ continuo. The instrumental playing (on period instruments) is perfectly accomplished if not especially inspired or captivating. The vocal contributions are a different matter altogether. The lion’s share of the writing goes to the soprano Cristina Miatello who is simply appalling. Her voice constantly sounds strained and her upper register constantly out of control and out of tune. How such a voice was ever committed to CD beggars belief. Contralto Caterina Calvi is a little better, and better still is ‘bass’ Roberto Abbondanza, who is actually a light baritone. Unfortunately, the poor quality of the vocal contributions makes this a non-starter – even a reference recording. My catalogue lists another recording of this work on the Arcana Label (A79) but I have not heard it and so can make no qualitative comparison.

There are also three of Stradella’s 27 purely instrumental works on this CD. The ‘Sinfonia No 2’ which opens the CD is in seven very short sections. Little more than a trio sonata, some of the music sounds quite archaic, harking back to the declamatory style of Monteverdi and the early Baroque. It relies heavily on imitative writing between the violin (Enrico Casazza) and cello (Francesco Ferrarini). The short Sonata in A major for two violins and basso continuo also falls into short sections with some notable contrapuntal writing in the two central movements. The final work on this CD is the much more substantial Sinfonia in F major; another work for violin, cello and continuo only. In all of these Sinfonias, the playing is excellent and these make up somewhat for the very disappointing performance of the cantata.

The sound – also produced by the violinist and director Enrico Casazza – is clear and atmospheric, lending a pleasant sonority to the basso continuo. The booklet is fairly minimal and, alas, the Italian text of the cantata has no translation. So, for someone interested in the development of instrumental writing in the middle Baroque, this disc has enough to interest. The cantata really has to be passed over due to the inadequate vocal offerings.

Derek Warby





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