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Strana armonia d'amore – Italian music of the 17th century
Ensemble L'Albera (Jordi Domènech (alto), Salvador Parron (tenor), Sara Parés (recorder), Fahmi Alqhai (viola da gamba), Enrike Solinis (theorbo, guitar), Carles Budó (harpsichord))
rec. December 2004, Auditorium of the Centro Cultural la Mercè in Girona, Spain. DDD
LA MÀ DE GUIDO LMG 2075 [50:02]

Giovanni STEFANI (fl 1618-1627)

Bella mia, questo mio core [03:57]
Giovanni Paolo CIMA (1570-1622)

Sonata I [03:57]
Marco DA GAGLIANO (1582-1643)

Alma mia, dove te'n vai [01:48]
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643)

Si dolce è il tormento [03:45]
Vincenzo CALESTANI (1589-1617)

Damigella tutta bella [02:01]
Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643)

Canzona à 2 'La Capriola' [03:13]
Se l'aura spira [01:40]
Partite sopra l'aria di Monicha [07:57]
Pietro BENEDETTI (1585-1649)

Mori mi dici [02:03]
Andrea FALCONIERI (1585-1656)

Brando 'Il Spiritillo' [00:54]
'La suave melodia', corrente [02:46]
Corrente 'La Cuella' [01:13]
Brando 'El Melo' [01:08]
Giovanni Francesco CAPELLO (fl 1610-1619)

Strana armonia d'amore [02:22]
Guilio CACCINI (1545-1618)

Dalla porta d'Oriente [01:55]
Angelo NOTARI (1566-1663)

Canzona passaggiata [04:38]
Giovanni DE MACQUE (1548-1614)

Consonanze stravaganti [01:40]
Biagio MARINI (1587-1663)

La vecchia innamorata [02:55]

Fundamental changes in musical style took place in Italy around 1600. The programme on this disc documents these changes well with a number of the emergent genres being represented.

In the field of vocal music Giulio Caccini proclaimed the predominance of the text over the music. This resulted in vocal pieces in a strongly declamatory style which was also a feature of the earliest operas. Examples are Pietro Benedetti's 'Mori mi dici' and Giovanni Francesco Capello's 'Strana armonia d'amore'. At the same time strophic madrigals were written, mostly termed 'arie'. Monteverdi, one of the most important representatives of the declamatory style, composed a number of them, for instance 'Si dolce è il tormento'. Another popular form was the strophic song based on a basso ostinato – a bass pattern repeated consistently throughout. 'Se l'aura spira' by Frescobaldi and 'Damigella tutta bella' by Calestani belong to this category.

The principles which changed the style of vocal music also influenced instrumental music. The format of one voice or couple of voices reciting a text over a basso continuo was translated into instrumental works for a solo instrument or several instruments spinning a line over a bass part. This was usually called a 'sonata' – like Cima's 'Sonata prima'; the 'canzonas' by Frescobaldi follow the same principle. These however had little in common with the canzonas of the 16th century, which derived from vocal models. Two other genres of instrumental music are represented: variations on a theme – for instance the 'Partite sopra l'aria di Monicha' by Frescobaldi – and dance music, like the four pieces by Andrea Falconieri (not Falconiero, as the tracklist calls him).

The early 17th century was also a time of experiment … with harmony and with ornamentation. Sometimes pieces could take on a pretty bizarre character. The last piece on this disc, 'La vecchia innamorata' (the old woman in love), is called "grotesque" in the booklet. It certainly sounds rather strange, but what the text says remains a secret: the booklet doesn't contain any lyrics.

This is only one of the flaws of this production. This disc could have been much more interesting, if the programme had been more adventurous. Some pieces in the programme – Marini, Benedetti, Capello – are little known, but most compositions are available in other recordings ... and, on top of that, in better interpretations. The alto's top notes sound a bit stressed, and the tenor lacks subtlety. There is some strange ornamentation, and the attempts to make some strophic arias sound dramatic is misplaced. Calestani's 'Damigella tutta bella' was recorded about three decades ago by the British tenor Nigel Rogers, and his interpretation was much better than Salvador Parron's.

The instrumentalists don't do much better. Cima's sonata is one of his best-known pieces, and – apart from the fact that it is much better suited to violin than to recorder – the performance it gets here is little more than mediocre. Frescobaldi's 'Partite' are generally too slow, and this results in the trills - the execution of which isn't always flawless - sounding unnatural. The dances by Falconieri are the best part of this disc.

Unadventurous programming, little more than mediocre performances, omission of the lyrics from the booklet and the unacceptably short playing time make it impossible to recommend this disc.

Johan van Veen


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