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Firenze 1616
Sospiri d'amanti
Claudio SARACINI (1586 – 1649?)
Io moro [3.54]
Giulio CACCINI (c.1550 – 1618)
Tutto’l dì piango [6.05]
Non ha’l ciel [3.50]
Il Rapimento de Cefalo
Cristofano MALVEZZI (1547-1599)
Sinfonia Quarta [3.13]
Giulio CACCINI (c.1550 – 1618)
Ineffabile ardor [0.39]
Muove si dolce [2.52]
Caduca fiamma [2.34]
Domenico BELLI (? – 1627)
L’Orfeo Dolente [35:28]
Le Poème Harmonique/Vincent Dumestre (theorbo)
rec. Chapelle de l’Hôpital Notre-Dame de Bon-Secours, Paris, September 2007
ALPHA CLASSICS 321 [58.43]

This reissue is a very useful reminder that there is much more to the world of early seventeenth century Florence than just the great work of Monteverdi, who composed Orfeo as a court opera in 1607. Sung drama was a special development in Florence, and music lovers looked for the right combination between poetry and music. The role of the camerate would have considerable significance in that development, which would lead, in full development, to opera as we know it.

There are special problems of setting words to music which remain potent for composers of all times. Is the priority music or text? In a preface of 1605, Monteverdi contrasted prima prattica with seconda prattica. In the former, the word must subordinate itself to the music, with emotional compass limited by musical values. In the latter, things are the other way about (a bit of a simplification, but sound enough), even if the expressiveness of the text means an unevenness in balance and harmony. Monteverdi’s Orfeo exemplifies seconda prattica. So too, in its own way, does Belli’s L’Orfeo Dolente, of 1616, the main piece on this recording, supplemented by extracts from contemporary works.

Belli’s work is not an opera in the sense that Monteverdi’s Orfeo is. Rather, it has the character of incidental music to Tasso’s play, Arminta, a set of numbers to draw out and heighten the key moments of the drama. The text of these verses is not by Tasso, but by Gabriello Chiabrera. Belli is today not well-known, but he was clearly a composer of distinctive voice; he worked at the Florentine Basilica of San Lorenzo from 1610 until 1613.

But this music is not just a piece of archaeological interest; it stands on its own very well in performances as varied, as musical and attractive as those on this disc. Singers are uniformly fine, both individually and in ensemble, with good diction and security of tone. Performances are informed, both musically and historically, as one would expect from such fine musicians.

The one complaint is the absence of texts. They can be found after several minutes looking around on the Alpha website. If, as in seconda prattica text and word-setting are so crucial, then, especially for those not immediately fluent in the Italian of the early seventeenth century (the singers themselves were given specialist language coaching before the recording), the listening experience requires access to text for full appreciation. Various recording companies make this economy, but it is a shame.

Michael Wilkinson
 
Performer listing
Arnaud Marzorati (Orfeo)
Isabelle Druet (Calliope)
Philippe Roche (Plutone)
Catherine Padaut (First Grace)
Camille Poul (Second Grace)
Aurore Bucher (Third Grace)
Jan van Elsacker (Shepherd)
Eva Godart (cornett)
Mélanie Flahaut (recorder, dulcian)
Johannes Frisch (violin)
Isabelle Saint-Yves (bass viol)
Lucas Guimaraes (bass viol)
Martin Bauer (violine)
Florian Carré (harpsichord, organ)
Massimo Moscardo (archlute)

 

 



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