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Cantatas for Soprano

 

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Giuseppe GIORDANI (1751-1798)
Sacred Works
Messa e Vespro [36:35]
Tantum ergo II [4:40]
Offertori per tutto l’anno [24:53]
Marinella Penicchi (soprano), Chiarastella Onorati (alto), Carlo Putelli (tenor), Davide Malvesto (bass), Alessandro Albenga (organ)
Coro Goffredo Petrassi/Stefano Cucci
rec. April 2015 in the Conservatory Licinio Refice, Frosinone
No texts included
TACTUS TC750702 [64:08]

This is no relation of Tommaso Giordani who became well established on the opera scene in London and Dublin in the 18th century, but a younger contemporary. Giuseppe Giordani also forged a notable operatic career in Italy, with nearly forty opera serie and buffe to his name, but to the extent that he is remembered by posterity, it is probably for his equally extensive output of oratorios and sacred works, much of it produced whilst he was maestro di cappella at the cathedral of Fermo from 1789. The Coro Goffredo Petrassi and their conductor Stefano Cucci present various compositions in apparently première recordings, drawing upon a planned complete critical edition of the composer’s scores, prepared by the Giordani Studies Centre in Fermo. That is surely a commendable project, both in its own right, and in revealing other traditions of ecclesiastical music from an age, of which the output of Haydn and Mozart are likely to be most listeners’ only or main experience.

The present selection of compositions stems from a different, more intimate practice of Catholic liturgy in Italy, where a choral setting would be accompanied only by organ. Sad to say, then, that the musical results are, at best, undistinguished. The CD notes do not give any information about the choir or soloists, but the former rarely sound like anything more than an enthusiastic but amateur ensemble. The sound they produce is often unfocused and fuzzy, the choral parts neither unanimous nor attacked crisply. In the short Mass setting here, the Kyrie sounds bland, though the sprightlier music of the Gloria prompts the choir to hone their parts more precisely. In the accompanying Vesper settings they sometimes draw out the dramatic implications of the text, for example in the ‘De torrente’ section of the Dixit Dominus, or the ‘Deposuit potentes de sede’ from the Magnificat. But there is room for considerably more musical interpretation than they give voice to here, and it could be followed through rather more consistently. In texture and mood the Tantum ergo setting parallels Mozart’s famous Laudate Dominum from the Vespers K339, in that a soprano solo is supported by a serene choral background, and with closer attention to the subtlety of the music in the music, this performance could have been nearly as affecting as the Mozart.

The choral singing is sometimes more astute in the Offertory settings featured here, not least in the longest example, O gloriose martyrum, curiously, though equally it comes under a certain amount of strain in other tracks. The set piece for Christmas, Tui sunt coeli, is rather charming, however, with the organ using registrations which imitate the shepherds’ pipes, including a musette-like effect towards the end.

The vocal soloists fare considerably better albeit not consistently. Soprano Marinella Pennicchi, often conveys the Mozartian, operatic character of her solos, though they are often realised with rather wobbly, wide vibrato, particularly in the Tantum ergo that obscures what should be a supple, pristine vocal line. There is something of a reedy whine from the tenor Carlo Putelli in the ‘Laudamus Te’ section of the Mass’s Gloria, but usually when the soloists come together as a semi-chorus they are better integrated. In one sense, then, the concertato style of this music is starkly realised with the contrast between soloists and chorus, though that is often achieved accidentally through the divergent quality of their respective contributions rather than through any inherent character of their interpretations. Alessandro Albenga offers generally discreet accompaniment on the organ of the Conservatorio Licioni Refice, where this disc was recorded, which sounds like an historic instrument with its strongly winded ranks and unequal temperament. Listeners with any interest in choral music of the Classical period may wish to investigate this disc, but it is hard to see that it is recommendable on any wider basis.

Curtis Rogers

 

 




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