La Voce di Orfeo - Gli amori di Francesco Rasi 1574-1621
[Amor che deggio far]
Benedetto FERRARI (1603-1681)
Io son amante di un crin aurato [04:29]
Francesco RASI (1574-1621)
Fillia mia, Filli dolce [02:02]
Torquato TASSO (1544-1595)
Amor l'ali m'impenna (spoken text) [01:36]
Sigismondo D'INDIA (1582-1629)
Vorrei bacarti, o Filli [01:55]
Dolcissimo sospiro [02:16]
Dalla porta d'Oriente [03:52]
[Vedrò il mio sol]
L'Orfeo: Rosa del ciel [02:18]
È si lieto il mio core [01:57]
In morte di Madonna (spoken text) [01:02]
Dove misero mai [01:13]
L'Orfeo: Solo di arpa [01:08]
Cara mia cetra [01:50]
Vedrò il mio sol [03:53]
Un guardo ohime ch'io moro [01:47]
Che vegg'io ohimè [07:08]
[Vattene pur crudel]
Et è pur dunque vero [05:54]
Sfogava con le stelle (spoken text) [01:03]
Sovente allor [03:33]
JOSQUIN DESPREZ (1450-1521), arr
Mille regretz, diminutions for lute [01:54]
Porte celato il mio nobil pensiero [03:44]
Non havea Febo ancora [02:28]
Furio Zanasi (baritone); Giulio Casati (narrator)
La Chimera/Eduardo Egüez
rec. January 2009, Église de Notre-Dame de l'Assomption, Basse-Bodeux,
NAIVE E 8925 [62:36]
This disc is devoted to Francesco Rasi, one of Italy's most
famous singers around 1600. He was born into an aristocratic
family and early on determined to become a professional musician.
And that wasn't easy at that time. In his programme notes Philippe
Canguilhem writes: "Rasi represents an instance - frequent
at the time - of the musician of noble descent cursed with a
disturbed, restless character, the consequence of a veritable
existential schizophrenia: (...) Rasi was torn between his prodigious
musical gifts, which gained him a reputation at court and the
appreciation of the prince [The Duke of Mantua], and the desire
to assert his aristocratic status, which for him was incompatible
with exercising his art in the same way as a professional musician
whose connection with the prince was one of servile dependence."
From this he explains Rasi's urge to travel as this was a way
to distinguish himself from the ordinary musician who didn't
have the opportunity to travel at will.
Rasi's reputation as a singer was such that he participated
in many opera performances in the first decade of the 17th century.
He, for instance, sang in the first performances of the very
first opera in history, Jacopo Peri's Euridice, in 1600.
In that same year he sang in the opera 'Il rapimento di Cefalo'
by Giulio Caccini, who had also been his singing teacher. It
is very likely he also realised the title role in the first
performance of Monteverdi's opera Orfeo in 1607. The
next year he sang in Monteverdi's 'Arianna' and in 'Dafne' by
Marco da Gagliano. During his whole career he travelled through
Italy, but also visited the Low Countries, Prague and Salzburg.
In 1610 he was sentenced in Tuscany to be hung, drawn and quartered
for the murder of his stepmother's servant. But his reputation
was such that he got away with it, thanks in particular to the
protection of the Gonzagas who let him flee to Turin.
Rasi not only acted as a singer, but published his own poems,
and he also wrote music. His only opera has been lost, but a
number of monodies, written in the style of Caccini, have been
preserved. Some of them have been recorded here.
The disc is divided into three sections each of which is introduced
by a Sinfonia, written by the director of La Chimera, Eduardo
Egüez, in the musical language of the time. In the first part
we hear two pieces by Caccini, who claimed to have laid the
foundations of the seconda prattica. Also in this part
is a madrigal by Sigismondo D'India, one of the most important
composers in that style. Like Rasi he was a nobleman, born in
Palermo at Sicily. He has become mainly known for his monodies,
but he also composed madrigals, motets and villanellas.
The first vocal piece of this disc is by Benedetto Ferrari who
was nicknamed 'della tiorba', a reference to the instrument
he played. In his time the monody was an established phenomenon
and well past its experimental stage. The inclusion of his aria
'Io son amante di un crin aurato' is a bit odd as Francesco
Rasi had already died when Ferrari's music began to be printed.
But then, this disc doesn't pretend to offer music which Rasi
could actually have sung himself. It just gives some idea of
the kind of music which was performed at his time in which he
played such an important role.
The second section revolves around the character of Orpheus.
It is Rasi's likely performance of the role of Orfeo in Monteverdi's
opera which has given this disc its title: "The voice of
Orpheus". Two extracts from this opera are surrounded by
pieces by d'India, Caccini and Rasi himself, as well as the
long monody 'Che vegg'io ohimè' by Sigismondo d'India. One might
compare this with recitative as we know it from the opera of
the late baroque. It is written in free style, and the singer
should strictly follow the rhythm of the text rather than that
of the music. It is of utmost importance to sing this work in
a highly declamatory style which permits expression of every
emotional shade in the text. This is what Caccini called recitar
cantando, speech-like singing. Furio Zanasi's performance
is a brilliant demonstration of what that means.
The third section is devoted to "impossible love and the
sufferings it causes". An example is the poem by Ottavio
Rinuccini, 'Sfogava con le stelle', set to music by many composers,
but here recited by Giulio Casati: "One sick from love,
under the night sky, poured out his grief to the stars".
This section also contains Eduardo Egüez's diminutions on Josquin's
famous chanson 'Mille regretz', which are included as a tribute
to Rasi in his capacity as a player of the chitarrone. The disc
ends with a setting of 'Non havea Febo ancora', known from the
famous setting of Monteverdi. We get here the version of Antonio
Brunelli, an interesting contemporary of Rasi whose music hasn't
really been explored yet. This setting is very different from
Monteverdi's and quite surprising, but I'm not going to give
the details here.
This whole disc is an impressive demonstration of what exactly
recitar cantando means. Any performer who wants to sing
(or play) Italian music from the early 17th century should listen
to this and learn from it. Every detail in the text is expressed,
all affetti are explored to the full. Furio Zanasi does
not have the sort of voice that immediately appeals to me, but
the way he uses it to express the text and all the emotions
it carries is just amazing and gripping. A singer must always
tell a story, and that is exactly what Zanasi is doing here
in a most impressive way. How nice it is to hear a singer who
understands the variety of the ornamentation composers like
Caccini required from their singers and who is actually able
to apply it correctly. And how good to hear a true messa
di voce, which was such an important tool of expression.
Let us not forget the players: they follow Zanasi every step
of the way, and underline the text with inflections in tempo
and dynamics. The various instruments are also used in a most
appropriate manner, thus underlining the character of every
In short, this is a magnificent recording which I can't praise
highly enough. I already know for sure that this disc is going
to be one of my discs of the year.
Johan van Veen