Alessandro STRADELLA (1639 - 1682)
Italian Arias
CD 1
Toccata in a minor [4:16]
È pazzia l'innamorarsi [1:04]
Mio cor, che si fa? [4:39]
Che mi giovan le vittorie** [1:52]
'Fedeltà!' sinché spirto in petto avrò [5:57]
Adorata libertà, dal mio core non partite [6:05]
Parti, fuggi dal mio seno [1:35]
Il mio cor ch'è infelicissimo [1:47]
Pria di scior quel dolce nodo* [5:01]
Begl'occhi, il vostro piangere [2:44]
Se di gioie m'alletta il sereno [3:01]
Cara e dolce libertà [4:50]
Deh, frenate i furori** [8:16]
Non fia mai, ah no, ch'io speri [2:11]
S'Amor m'annoda il piede [3:51]
Le luci vezzose volgetemi, o Clori [5:50]
Quanto è bella la mia stella [2:33]
Ogni sguardo che tu scocchi [1:19]
CD 2
Chi mi disse che Amor dà tormento [1:19]
Pensier ostinato [1:25]
Al rigor di due tiranni [2:43]
Da Filinda aver chi può [4:46]
Speranze smarrite* [1:48]
Il mio core per voi, luci belle [3:43]
Dell'ardore ch'il core distempra [3:33]
Chi vuol libero il suo piè [4:08]
Delizie, contenti** [2:46]
Chi non porta amor nel petto [1:17]
Chi avesse visto un core [4:02]
Dormite, occhi, dormite** [5:39]
Deh, vola, o desio [2:45]
Avete torto, occhi miei cari [3:30]
Ti lascerò e a poco a poco [6:01]
Torna, Amor, dammi il mio bene [2:24]
Destatevi, o sensi, risvegliati, onore [1:55]
Avrò pur d'aspettar più? [3:53]
Bel tempo, addio, son fatto amante [4:04]
Harmonices Mundi (Susanne Rydén (soprano), Martin Oro (alto)*, Lisandro Abadie (baritone)**, Hedwig Raffeiner, Rossella Croce (violin), Alessandro Palmeri (cello), Pietro Posser (lute, theorbo, guitar), Claudio Astronio (harpsichord, organ))/Claudio Astronio
rec. 2011, Bolzano, Italy. DDD
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94258 [67:34 + 62:19]

Alessandro Stradella was a highly admired performer and composer in his time. After his death he was called "un Orfeo assassinato" - an Orfeo murdered, probably referring to his qualities as a tenor. His adultery and various affairs with women as well as his secondary job of matchmaking caused him a lot of trouble. It apparently resulted in his being stabbed to death in Genoa in 1682 at the age of just 42. In that relatively short span he wrote a large and versatile oeuvre. It comprises a number of operas and oratorios, and in particular a large number of cantatas. Today his most famous work is his oratorio San Giovanni Battista.
The lion’s share of his 174 extant cantatas are for soprano and basso continuo; other voice types are only sporadically used. In her liner-notes Carolyn Gianturco points out how much attention Stradella paid to the text. "While other composers, both before and after him, drew attention to single words through dissonance or melodic ornamentation, Stradella's settings, despite using this technique, are more closely and continuously tied to the text. (...) Stradella interprets each text as a literary and musical dramatist, so that the words, phrases and overall meaning of his dramatic vocal music can be interpreted fully and understood unambiguously."
The arias on these discs are collected from various manuscripts from, locations spread across Europe and even the United States. It says something about the popularity of Stradella's music. In his stock-taking of the arias John S. Powell fails to make clear why these were written. Were they conceived as independent pieces or were they originally part of cantatas? His analysis of these arias leads to the conclusion that, although they are all about love, there is quite a lot of variety in the way the subject is treated.
Unfortunately that is not really reflected in the way they are performed. Although the liner-notes don't say so I assume this disc contains all Stradella’s extant solo arias. That in itself makes this an important production, also considering the quality of the music. This makes it all the more disappointing that this project in the end has to be considered less than a success.
To begin with, as the far majority of the arias have the same scoring - soprano and basso continuo - it is not very smart to programme them as they are on these discs. A mixture with instrumental pieces or with some of Stradella's duets or trios would have created some variety. It would also have helped if more than one soprano could have been involved. Now we hear the same voice for more than two hours almost without interruption. And that is not a great pleasure. I have heard Susanne Rydén in other recordings, and she has the perfect voice for religious music of the 17th century, and especially German repertoire. Here she is totally miscast.
Technically she is overstretched. She gives the impression of having quite some trouble in hitting the top notes, and these often sound uncomfortable. She then pushes out the sound at the expense of the delivery. Because of that we hear fortes where they are not required. The articulation leaves something to be desired and in more than one instance the intonation is suspect.
The interpretation is even more problematic. Explaining Stradella's differentiated treatment of the subject of love is one thing, making it audible is quite another. It is particularly here that this interesting project goes astray. The light-hearted and ironic items come off rather well, but in the more dramatic stuff Rydén fails to communicate the protagonist's sadness, despair or anger. There is no depth or real emotion. And when she tries to sing dramatically, for instance in Il mio cor, ch'è infelicissimo, it is unnatural and lacks conviction. Her voice is too light and not very colourful. Why did Claudio Astronio choose Ms Rydén? I can only dream about what a naturally dramatic soprano like Roberta Invernizzi - to mention just one - would have made of this repertoire. Martin Oro makes a better impression, and in particular the baritone Lisandro Abadie delivers good performances. The highlight is Dormite, occhi, dormite, a very expressive dialogue of voice and violin. But their contributions are too small to redeem this set.
I have heard music by Stradella before and have greatly enjoyed it. Here I was glad when the last note died away. It was quite an effort to keep my concentration while listening to these discs, not because of the quality of the music but because of the one-dimensional performances. It is very sad that an interesting project like this has gone astray.
The lyrics in the booklet contain various errors. In the track-list and the printing of the lyrics track 8 of the first disc and track 6 of the second have been swapped. I have corrected this in the review header.
Johan van Veen

An interesting project gone astray.