Anyone seeking sanctuary from the stresses of modern life could
do much worse than listen to Bellerofonte Castaldi's
beautiful music and be wafted back to a time long before mobile
phones, cars, pop stars and billions of people all competing
with each other for attention and the planet's resources.
This recital provides an hour's worth of direct nourishment
for the soul and the senses.
Most of the pieces are for theorbo solo or theorbo and theorbino
duet, all of these coming from Castaldi's 1622 collection,
Capricci a due Stromenti. The two items for voice and
theorbo, the first of which does not appear until the second
half of the recital, come from his 1623 publication, Il
Primo Mazzetto di Fiori Musicalmente Colti dal Giardino Bellerofonteo
('The First Bouquet of Flowers Musically Gathered from
the Bellerofontean Garden'). That garden metaphor is
apt: Castaldi's pieces are the musical equivalent of
warm evening sunshine under blue skies: fragrant, intimate,
life-affirming, poetical, utterly lyrical: this is John Dowland
without the melancholia!
The CD title Ferita d'Amore (literally 'Wound
of Love', but less prosaically expressed along the lines
of 'Love Hurts') comes from a galliard that appears
in the recital. The musicians and track-list group the pieces
into three sets, reflecting the love-related sub-themes of joy,
contemplation and devotion, but there is no obvious discontinuity
in the music itself.
Castaldi was more than a friend to Monteverdi. He was in fact
a genuine Renaissance Man: lute virtuoso, poet, engraver, satirist,
swordsman, rider, all-round maverick. His highly original music
has received relatively little attention to date, and this Arcana
release is already one of the most important CD monographs,
along with a partly overlapping Toccata Classics disc released
a couple of years ago (review)
and Alpha's very first release, a song-based recital
by Guillemette Laurens, a decade earlier (001).
Argentina-born Italian lutenist Evangelina Mascardi has made
many recordings for various labels and has worked with Ensemble
415 and the Ricercar Consort, among others. Her performance
here is ideal: thoughtful, warm, expressive, winning. Though
she does not get star billing like Mascardi, the contribution
of Mónica Pustilnik, Argentinean despite her surname, is considerable.
The rarely heard theorbino, or tiorbino, is, as the name suggests,
a small theorbo pitched an octave higher, and adds a colour
all of its own to the music of Castaldi, who is said to have
invented it and was thus the first - and possibly last! - composer
to write for it. Naples-born Marco Beasley is something of a
specialist in early Italian Baroque repertoire, and brings a
wealth of experience to his two songs. Although his folk-style
interpretation may not have the same wide appeal as Mascardi's
theorbo, it arguably lends the music greater authenticity and
sits very well with its intimate tone.
The recording is of the highest quality. The church at San Rocco
was rebuilt during Castaldi's lifetime, completed a year
before his death. Small font aside, the lavish booklet is attractively
designed, replete with lengthy quadrilingual notes, photos and
sung texts. The only omission, and a rather surprising one at
that, are biographies of the performers. Note-writer David Dolata
gets one, even the parish church gets one, but not the musicians!
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk