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Giovanni Lorenzo LULIER (c.1662-1700)
La Gloria, Roma e Valore
Chiara Balasso (Gloria); Lia Serafini (Roma) (soprano); Matteo Pigato (Valore) (alto)
I Musicali Affetti/Fabio Missaggia
rec. 26-27 Nov 2014, Chiesetta delle Monache, Vicenza, Italy. DDD
Libretto without translation available at the Fra Bernardo website
FRA BERNARDO FB1505643 [60:00]

It seems very likely that you have never heard of Giovanni Lorenzo Lulier. Hardly any music from his pen has been recorded. The ensemble Alte Musik Köln included a Concerto da camera in F in its recording of music written in Rome in the last decades of the 17th century (review), but that's about it. It is notable that the work-list in New Grove includes no instrumental works. The Petrucci Music Library has a concerto for cello - in fact a concerto with solo parts for violin and cello - which is part of Schrank 2, the collection of music connected to the Dresden court chapel under Johann Georg Pisendel. However, it is questionable whether it is from the pen of Lulier.

The composer in the manuscript is given as Giovanni a Roma. Lulier also had a nickname: Giovannino del Violone. That is an indication of the instrument he played: probably not the violone as it is known in our time - the 16' violone grosso - but rather the bass violin, today known as the cello. Lulier was born and died in Rome and here he made a career as a player of the cello, first in the service of Cardinal Pamphili and then in the chapel of Cardinal Ottoboni. He was close to Corelli; it seems that they often played in the same orchestra. Corelli also composed the sinfonia to Lulier's oratorio S Beatrice d'Este, first performed in 1689.

La Gloria, Roma e Valore is called a cantata, but belongs to the genre of the serenata. It could well be the last composition from Lulier's pen: it was performed in February 1700, and the next month Lulier died of a stroke. A serenata was written to pay homage to a specific person. In this case two individuals are the addressees of this serenata: Cardinal Ottoboni and the new Venetian ambassador Nicolò Erizzo. They were connected by the fact that both were born in Venice, and therefore it comes as no surprise that part of this work is a eulogy to the glory of Venice.

The work has no instrumental introduction. Excerpts from Corelli's Concerto grosso in D, op. 6,7 are used as such. It is followed by a sequence of recitatives and arias of the three characters: Gloria, Roma and Valore. Gloria opens the proceedings: she returns to Rome which she protected for a long time. Now she finds its former glory gone: the great buildings of imperial Rome have run to ruin. She then meets Rome who complains about the loss of her former glory. Valore intervenes: Rome's glory has been restored: the power of the emperors has been given to Piero - a reference to the Pope. Then Rome remembers one of them: Alessandro Ottoboni, who was pope as Alexander VIII from 1689 to 1691 and was the grand-uncle of Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni. It gives her reason to sing an elegiac aria. Valore then points to his nephew - Cardinal Ottoboni - who within him unites all the qualities of the deceased Pope. Next Gloria puts the spotlight on the Venetian ambassador, hailed as a "new light" which illuminates Rome's hills. His wife - Samaritana Nani - is included in the songs of praise as she is from a distinguished family which includes doges, ambassadors and even a martyr. She is called "sun among the stars" and "rose among the flowers". Gloria then addresses Rome: as she is the mother of great heroes she should stop complaining and be happy. Time destroys buildings, but Rome's name will last forever. In a duet Gloria and Valore say that the virtues of Rome will not yield to time and transience. In an accompanied recitative Rome pronounces that her she-wolf will bow to Venice's lion and that she bows her "seven heads" - referring to the seven hills on which Rome is built - for the great Ottoboni and Erizzo. She closes the work with its most brilliant aria.

With four and a half minutes it is also the longest; the other arias are more modest in length. Those without a dacapo last less than two minutes, the arias with a dacapo take a little more than three minutes. The closing aria is not only the longest but also includes more coloratura than the others. The instrumental scoring is for strings - including viola - and basso continuo. Some arias have an obbligato part: the first aria (Ma vegg'io giacer tra l'Erbe) a violin, 'Così quel bianco giglio' two violins. Gloria's aria 'Se d'Eroi bella Madre pur sei' has an obbligato part for transverse flute or oboe; here the former option is chosen. The inclusion of a flute or oboe is quite remarkable: the oboe had only made its appearance in Italy in the last decade of the 17th century and it seems unlikely that the transverse flute was widely used in Italy before the first decade of the 18th century. The last aria also includes instrumental obbligatos, for violin and cello. The latter was certainly played by Lulier himself in the performance in February 1700.

There is every reason to be very happy about this disc. First of all, this serenata is of fine quality. It includes many beautiful arias and the recitatives are short but well written. The instrumental parts also give much reason for enjoyment. Listen, for instance, how the opening phrases of the aria 'Comino, violino, celeri, rapidi' are depicted by the strings. Secondly, Lulier's serenata receives an outstanding performance. The three singers are fully up to the job: they have very nice and agile voices, are totally convincing from a stylistic angle, avoid incessant vibrato and pay much attention to the text. The instrumental parts receive an engaging interpretation from I Musicali Affetti.

In short, this disc is a delight from start to finish. It will appeal strongly to any lover of baroque vocal music.

N.B. The booklet mentions an English translation of the libretto being available on the website. At the time I am writing this review only a German translation is available.

Johan van Veen



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