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Dolce Napoli
Nicola FIORENZA (c. 1700-1764)
Concerto [7:28]
Francesco MANCINI (1672-1737)
Sonata VII [7:53]
Filippo ROSA (?)
Sinfonia a Flauto Solo e Basso [7:17]
Leonardo LEO (1694-1744)
Sonata a Flauto Solo e Basso [5:50]
Pietro PULLJ (c. 1717-after 1759)
Sonata a Flauto Solo e Basso [4:33]
Francesco MANCINI
Sonata Decima Nona [8:18]
Sonata a Flauto Solo [5:04]
Domenico SARRI (1679-1744)
Sonata Undecima [8:43]
La Cicala/InÍs d’Avena (recorder; director)
rec. 2014, Lutherse Kerk, Delft, the Netherlands
PASSACAILLE 1007 [55:46]

Recorder player InÍs d’Avena last popped up on MWI when we were given a copy of the very fine crowd-funded recording made by her Schifanoia Duo together with Isabel Favilla (see review). She now appears with musical backing from her ensemble La Cicala, which consists of seven musicians from a pool of players which are also included in the distinguished period orchestra Collegium Musicum.

Dolce Napoli is a very fine collection of concertos and sonatas which includes works which have only very recently been rediscovered. This is also a premiŤre outing for two copies of Italian Baroque recorders made by Fumitaka Saito in Amsterdam. The original pitches of these instruments is taken into consideration in the recording. Called a ‘pitch wave’ in the promotional text, the sonority of the instruments varies in tuning between A=425Hz, A=415Hz and A=405Hz. This is a fairly subtle effect, but those of us who remember dodgy record turntables may feel the sag in pitch between for instance the Sonata VII by Francesco Mancini and Filippo Rosa’s Sinfonia as a slipping belt rather than rediscovered sounds. The ear soon becomes accustomed to this as the music progresses, but having these sorts of things next to each other on recordings can take a little getting used to. All of these changes are clearly documented in the booklet, as are the provenance of the instruments copied, so there are no mysteries. The further one goes into the subject the more fascinating it becomes, with unique and now unplayable instruments being brought back to life, their subtle qualities now showcased for all to hear.

Superbly recorded, this production is a delight from start to finish. InÍs d’Avena’s playing is spectacularly good, evidenced in part by feats such as the racy tonguing demanded by the final All[eg]ro of Filippo Rosa’s Sinfonia a Flauto Solo e Basso. Elegant and gorgeously musical phrasing is equally important of course, and there are marvellous little ornamental touches and expressively dissonant inflections teasing us with frisson beyond the typically diatonic writing of the period. If you like crisply rhythmic energy and soulful lines in your Italian Baroque then this is an excellent place to get your fix.

This programme is so finely integrated with the concept of using these newly built recorders that there is little point in picking out highlights. There is a consistent level of craftsmanship in the works performed, and unfamiliar names such as the opera composer Pietro Pullj and violinist Nicola Fiorenza jostle with composers who are marginally less obscure but probably only familiar to specialists in the period and the music of 18th century Naples. Works with harpsichord accompaniment contrast with the richness of ensemble which greets fine music from Francesco Mancini in his Sonata Decima Nona, and the ‘precious’ final Sonata Undecima by Domenico Natale Sarro (or Sarri). This deserves pointing out for its dramatic fast movements and lyrical expressiveness over harmonies that have just those few extra touches to make them outstanding. As music with which these musicians have lived and worked there is a sense of rounded expertise and joyful spontaneity in these performances which is genuinely infectious.
Dominy Clements