Giovanni LEGRENZI (1626
Il Sedecia - oratorio in 2 parts
Sonata La Torriana, op. 2,15 [4:29]
Il Sedecia, Parte prima [24:30]
Sonata La Strasolda, op. 2,4 [3:27]
Il Sedecia, Parte seconda [25:43]
Sonata La Frangipana, op. 2,3 [3:28]
Francesca Lombardi (First son [Figlio primo]), Lisa Serafini (Second
son [Figlio secondo]) (soprano), Andrea Arrivabene (Narrator [Testo])
(alto), Raffaele Giordani (Zedekiah [Sedecia]) (tenor), Walter Testolin
(Nebuchadnezzar [Nabucco]) (bass)
Oficina Musicum/Riccardo Favero
rec. October 2010, Chiesa di Sant'Alessandro Martire, Massanzago
(PD), Italy. DDD
Texts included; translation to be downloaded from here
DYNAMIC CDS 711 [61:39]
Riccardo Favero seems to have a special interest in the oeuvre
of Giovanni Legrenzi. At about the same time this disc was recorded
he also produced a disc with instrumental and vocal works.This
was released under the title Testamentum.
In 2008 he recorded a disc with two
Legrenzi is a quite important figure in Italian music history,
albeit mainly in the instrumental field. That was especially
the case after his move to Venice. This took place by 1670 at
the latest. Before that he had held several positions in Bergamo
and Ferrara. In Venice he acted as maestro di musica
in various ospedali. During the 1680s he was appointed
first as vice-maestro and then maestro de cappella
at San Marco. He composed a number of operas and a considerable
corpus of sacred music. In his instrumental works he is the
link between the 17th century and the canzonas of Merula and
Cazzati on the one hand and the late baroque style of composers
like Vivaldi and Torelli on the other.
The work-list in New Grove mentions seven oratorios;
four of these are lost. They all belong to the category of the
oratorio volgare, the oratorio in the vernacular. Il
Sedecia dates from 1676; from that same year comes La
vendita del core humano which was recorded by the Ensemble
Classics). An oratorio which is not mentioned in New
Grove was released by Tactus:
Il Cuor umano all'incanto, probably also from the 1670s.
Lastly, there is La morte del cor penitente, which probably
dates from 1671. This was recorded by the Sonatori de la Gioiosa
Il Sedecia is set during the last stages of Judah as
a political entity. The last three kings were puppets of the
Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar who was the main political force
in the region. Zedekiah, the third and last king, revolted against
the Babylonians, ignoring the messages of God’s prophet,
Jeremiah. Jerusalem was besieged and destroyed, Zedekiah was
captured, his sons were killed before his eyes and then he was
blinded and sent to Babylon in captivity.
The oratorio is divided into two parts. The first begins with
a chorus of the Jews: "Let us flee prompt and swift". The Testo
then begins to report about the events which unfold in the rest
of this part. Zedekiah expresses his sorrow about having to
leave his kingdom and urges his two sons to take courage. They
express their admiration for their father's courage and they
wish to follow him. A choir of soldiers sings the praises of
Nebuchadnezzar who is sure that Zedekiah will not escape: "My
thundering arm shall reach him no matter where he wanders".
As was common practice in all oratorios of the time the first
part ends with a five-part madrigale, expressing a moral:
"How mad you are, foolish absconder! You think you can run away,
but Heaven's wrath cannot be escaped". This reflects the messages
of the prophet Jeremiah that the fate of Judah and its King
were God's punishment for their sins.
In the second part we meet Zedekiah and his two sons, resting
on the banks of the Jordan river, near Jericho. The peace and
quiet is disrupted by the Baylonian armies which chase them.
They are captured, and Nebuchadnezzar announces the punishment.
Zedekiah urges him to kill him and spare his sons, but these
then challenge Nebuchadnezzar to kill them. So it happens: they
are killed and Zedekiah is blinded. Zedekiah laments his fate
and takes the blame for what has happened. The oratorio ends
with another madrigale: "Mortals, learn the law of God;
first he corrects, then he turns a deaf ear."
The performance raises some questions. First of all, the liner-notes
tell us that the oratorio is scored for voices and continuo.
It is then stated that the various characters have their own
instruments: the two sons, for instance, are accompanied by
a violin. The question then is: what exactly do they play? It
seems that they mostly follow the bass line. I wonder whether
this practice has any historical justification. Apparently Legrenzi
didn't see the need to add instrumental parts to the score.
The second issue is the scoring of the choruses. These are in
five parts which was common in oratorios of the time. The very
fact that there are also five soloists in the same scoring -
SSATB - strongly suggests that these choruses were to be sung
by the soloists. That is confirmed by the chorus of Nebuchadnezzar's
soldiers (track 36) which is in three parts: ATB. One has to
assume that oratorios like this were mostly performed with very
small forces. Many oratorios don't have an overture; that is
the case here. In modern performances and recordings this is
usually compensated for by selecting a sinfonia by the same
composer or a contemporary of his. Here the first and second
parts are preceded by sonatas from Legrenzi's op. 2; the closing
chorus is followed by a third sonata. The fact that the oratorio
is scored for voices and bc, without other instruments, raises
questions in regard to the historical justification of this
practice. It is not very logical to play a sinfonia for two
violins and bc when no violins are needed in the oratorio itself.
Several of these sonatas, which were originally scored for two
violins and bc, are played by cornett and violin.
The singers all have very nice voices which are excellently
suited to this kind of repertoire. The interpretations are different,
though. The two sopranos stand out in their accounts of the
roles of Zedekiah's sons. The duet in which they say farewell
to their father as they are killed is very moving and impressively
performed. Andrea Arrivabene does well as the Testo,
avoiding too much involvement which would be at odds with his
role as narrator. Raffaele Giordani fails fully to explore the
role of Zedekiah. He is too bland by half. You can hear this
especially in the closing scene when he faces Nebuchadnezzar
and hears what is going to be his and his sons' fate. The same
goes for Walter Testolin in the role of Nebuchadnezzar. He boasts
about his power: "Let those who see my glory and do not worship
it suffer perpetual horror". He doesn't make enough of that;
his singing is far too neat.
This recording should be given a warm welcome as it is the last
of Legrenzi's extant oratorios to make its way to disc. That
said, the interpretation could have done more to express the
work’s dramatic character.
Johan van Veen