Nicola Antonio PORPORA (1686-1768)
Confitebor for soprano, choir and orchestra (1745) [14:25]
Crimen, Adae quantum constat, for choir and bass continuo (1754)
Credidi propter, for choir and orchestra (1745) [5:05]
Nunc dimittis, for choir and orchestra (1744-45) [8:57]
Qui habitat in adiutorium altissimi, for choir and orchestra
Vigilate, oculi mei for soprano and bass continuo (1712)
Domine probasti me, for choir and orchestra (1745) [6:20]
Paola Crema (soprano); Maria Zalloni (mezzo)
Coro Femminile Harmònia
Ensemble Barocca I Musicali Affeti/Michele Peguri
rec. 2014, Concert Hall of Canevon, Marghera-Malcontenta, Venice
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 95159 [66:06]
The programmatic focus here is on Porpora’s Venetian female choruses
largely dating from his ignominious return from Handel-dominated London
whence he’d gone as a rival to the local star. The Opera of the Nobility
failed to rival Handel, and so in 1742 Porpora found himself in Venice as
chorus-master successively of the Ospedale Della Pietà and then at the
Ospedale dei Poveri Derelitti. He later journeyed to Dresden, where he fared
even worse than in London, before – with Farinelli’s intervention - he
returned to Naples, plagued by poverty.
Porpora’s blending of Italian and French models, staunch traditionalism
and more contemporary traits, proved that the Neapolitan style could have a
fertile seed-bed in Venice, and indeed elsewhere. Though he is best known
now for the florid and something extravagantly expressive arias for
Farinelli – which is where most disc space these days is centred – he wrote
for female choral forces for a significant amount of the time. This disc
concentrates largely on the years 1743-47 and the choir of girls of
charitable hospitals in the city.
The compositions were almost certainly written for vespers at the
Ospedaletto and show Porpora’s fusion at its most pronounced.
a concertante piece –
that’s to say soloists
and choir only - is a most attractive example of these traits, its
compression serving to accentuate them the more, though the performance is
somewhat mechanical and static in execution. A rival version of
Vigilate, oculi mei
, a Roman work of 1712 and the one anomaly given
its compositional date,
can be heard from
Nicole Switaiski whose more incisive vocalism is superior to the more
literal, though tidy and small-scaled performance of Paola Crema, whose
divisions are a touch hesitant and voice production slightly inconsistent.
However her voice is most certainly suitably girlish in timbre.
The performances throughout are historically well-informed and clearly
considerable thought has gone into these realisations; however the violins
are untidy from time to time and the choir equally inconsistent – the men’s
voices in Domine probasti
are none too ship-shape.
There are decent booklet notes but no texts, which will prove
disappointing to a number of potential purchasers. There is one work
apparently making its disc premiere – Confitebor
– which will be of
interest, and these enthusiastic performance will prove effective. In all
honesty though they remain a stop-gap.