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Carneval Oriental
Francesca Lombardi Mazzulli (soprano)
Charlotte Quadt (mezzosoprano)
Pera Ensemble/Mehmet C. Yeşilçay
L’arte del mondo/Werner Ehrhardt
rec. 2-4 September 2015, Erholunghaus der Bayer AG, Leverkusen Germany
CAPRICCIO C5263 [55:37]

This is party music for an imaginary evening in Istanbul in the early part of the 18th century, featuring European compositions written between 1618 and 1721. It is a joint performance by Turkey’s Pera Ensemble, and Germany’s L’arte del mondo. Pera is the former Greek name for the cosmopolitan neighborhood in Istanbul, where foreign traders lived and played. Perhaps they celebrated Carneval in a foreign land by listening to music such as this, in Turkish-inflected performances such as these.

This is boisterous fare, baroque music with lots of drums. The impact is earthy, and sometimes a little coarse, but fun. The musicians are all highly skilled, producing effects that are sometimes arresting, and often intellectually stimulating. The disc offers a thoughtful contrast to more rarified and effete approaches to baroque performance.

There are also quiet moments, especially in some of the arias, such as Antonio Cesti’s “Vieni Alidoro.” The singers, Francesca Lombardi Mazzulli and Charlotte Quadt, are both excellent. They deploy appealing ornamentation, and their voices contrast well in their duets.

One highlight is a version of La Folia, an energetic mash-up of Corelli and Vivaldi. This is sturdy music which has born up well to all forms of treatment, including the very funny version by Eduardo Paniagua, another explorer of Western-Islamic musical interaction.

Understand that this recording is Western music augmented by Turkish instruments, and not a kind of fusion. The opening passacaille by Lully (from Armide) is catches your attention with its brusque presentation of a piece that is often rather more stately. The performances are a bit like some Jordi Savall productions: fine musicianship, admirable intellectual curiosity, and the dubious assumption that almost everything sounds better with drums.

There are some half dozen recordings by the Pera Ensemble. I have not yet heard others, but I admire its attention to musical possibilities at the edges of the Western cultural realm. I have listened to this disc several times, and find that my reaction can vary. What sounds fresh and exhilarating one day can strike me as a little oppressive on another. It may simply be that some days I do not feel like a party. As with much party music, there is an air of manic fun about this recording. It will entertain, and may get you thinking about how music is shaped by broader economic and political relationships. Showing the porousness of cultural borders is a good thing and is itself a political act as well as a musical exploration. If the Pera Ensemble did not receive an EU subsidy for Oriental Carneval, it certainly should have. Purists should probably avoid this recording; those curious about a different approach to 17th-century Italianate music may find pleasure herein.

Richard Kraus

Jean Baptiste LULLY (1632-1687)
Passacaille from “Armide” [3:34]
André CAMPRA (1660-1744)
Premier Air (from “Carnival de Venise” [0:39]
Jean Baptiste LULLY
Canaries from “Bourgeois gentilhomme” [1:14]
Carnival de Venise:
Duet “Dans ce beau jour” [3:50]
Prologue-Premier et Second Passepied [1:28]
Duett: “Que l’amour” [048]
Marche du Carnaval [0::48]
Duett: “La Venitienne” [1:56]
Antonio CESTI (1623-1669)
Alma Mia (from “L’Argia”) [3:20]
Antonio SARTORIO (1620-1681)
Quando voglio (from “Giulio Cesare”) [2:24]
Lorenzo ALLEGRI (1567-1648)
Canario, Il Primo Libro Delle Musiche [2:39]
Interlude [0:40]
Ogni bella (from “Giulio Cesare”) [2:20]
Marco UCCELLINI (1603 or 1610-1680)
Aria Quinta: Sopra la Bergamasca (from Sonate, arie et correnti, Op 3) [6:11]
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643)
Lidia Spina del Mio Core (from Scherzi Musicali, 1632) [2:09]
Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713)
& Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
La Folia [7:11]
Antonio CESTI
Intorno all’idol mio spirate pur, spriate (from “Orontea) [4:45]
Vieni Alidoro (from “Orontea) [3:06]
Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725)
Se il mio dolor t’offende (from “Griselda”) [2:40]
Georg Friedrich HÄNDEL (1660-1725)
Se teco vive il cor (from “Radamisto”) [3:12]



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