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Bella Immago
Capriola Di Gioia (Amaryllis Dieltiens (soprano), Lidewij van der Voort (violin), Catherine Jones (cello), Mike Fentross (chitarrone), Jurgen De bruyn (archlute, guitar), Bart Naessens (harpsichord, organ))
rec. February 2015 in the Chapel of the hospital Onze Lieve Vrouw, Bruges, Belgium DDD
Texts and translations included
AEOLUS AE-10093 [74:38]

Today early music is one of the most flourishing parts of music life. That is largely due to the interest in early performance practice, which developed in the 1950s and 1960s. However, the interest in music of the past in fact dates from the 19th century. Several composers were interested in and influenced by composers of previous centuries, such as Bach and Händel. The 19th century also saw the birth of musicology which paid attention to composers of the renaissance and baroque periods. Catalogues of the oeuvre of composers were published, music was edited and printed, manuscripts were collected and studied. One of those who had a vivid interest in music of the past was François-Joseph Fétis (1784-1871), a Belgian musicologist and composer, appointed director of the Brussels Conservatory in 1833. To him we owe the collection of music from which the pieces on the present disc are taken.

The programme reflects the music which was performed in social gatherings in the decades around 1700, especially in Italy, in the so-called academies, but not only there. Italian music was popular across Europe. Various Italian composers travelled north to look for employment. One of them was Giovanni Bononcini, born in Modena, who worked for several years at the imperial court in Vienna before moving to London where he would become Händel's main rival in the field of opera. In Rome he became a member of the Arcadian Academy, to which also Corelli and Alessandro Scarlatti belonged.

Scarlatti takes the central stage in the programme; that is understandable becasue he was the main composer of chamber cantatas. This was one of the most popular genres of secular vocal music. Such cantatas were frequently performed during the meetings of the academies, known as conversazioni. The composers themselves were often involved in the performance of their works. Scarlatti laid the foundation of the genre: its basic form was two pairs of recitative and aria, usually scored for a solo voice—mostly soprano or alto—with basso continuo, sometimes with the addition of one or two parts for a treble instrument. However, Scarlatti himself regularly strayed from this form: he would extend the number of recitatives and arias or add an instrumental introduction. He composed his cantatas over a pretty long period, so some changes in the texture of his cantatas can be observed, and that includes the cantatas recorded here. Some arias are strophic, others are through-composed. There also are some which have a d capo. The latter would become the standard in the 18th century. It is notable that many recitatives end with an arioso-like phrase, which makes for a natural transition to the ensuing aria.

Chamber cantatas have certainly much in common with opera. They were, however, performed in the intimacy of the academies, and that lends them a different character. They are mostly not dramatic; only one singer is involved, so there is no real dialogue between characters. The singer takes different roles: in Cara sempre, for instance, it is Fileno who sings the arias. In the second recitative the singer takes the role of a reporter, stating "Fileno was saying these things one day under shadowy green myrtles". This also has consequences for the way in which these cantatas are performed. Amaryllis Dieltiens has the ideal voice for this repertoire: sweet, warm and flexible. Her diction and articulation are excellent. She is quite impressive in the performance of the recitatives, which have exactly the right amount of rhythmic freedom. She uses quite some dynamic differentiation in the interest of expression. In the arias, she effectively colours her voice to express different feelings and situations. This seems how such music was performed in the meetings of the academies.

In addition to the cantatas, we hear several arias. One of them opens the programme: "E pur ver" is from Giovanni Bononcini's most famous opera, l trionfo di Camilla, performed no fewer than 63 times in London between 1706 and 1709. The other arias are independent pieces, although we cannot rule out some of them coming from lost operas. They are all written in the dacapo form. In this part of the programme we meet one unknown master: Carlo Caproli, a generation earlier than Bononcini and Scarlatti. He lived and worked in Rome in the mid-17th century. In his time, he was the leading composer of chamber cantatas. In this department, he was Scarlatti's forerunner.

In between the vocal items we hear some instrumental works. The Divertimento in B flat by Bononcini is from a set of eight; they appeared in two editions in London in 1722, one for transverse flute or violin and basso continuo, and one for harpsichord. Like Bononcini, Scarlatti was best known for his vocal works. It is generally assumed that his keyboard works were written for educational purposes, but that does not justify the derogatory description of "pupil fodder" in New Grove. They also give us some idea of where his son Domenico got his talent as a keyboard player from. In the second and third sections of the Toccata settima, Bart Naessens is joined by Jurgen De bruyn at the guitar; I cannot figure out why. From around 1700 the cello became increasingly popular and in the first half of the 18th century a considerable number of editions with chamber music for the cello were published. This is documented here by the inclusion of the Sonata V by Salvatore Lanzetti, who performed across Europe, for instance in Paris and in London. In the latter city his Six solos for two violoncellos op. 2 were published. The sonata in the programme is taken from that collection. Lastly Jurgen De bruyn plays a piece by Giovanni Zamboni, a virtuoso on several plucked instruments, such as the lute and the mandolin. The Ceccona is taken from a collection printed in 1718. The instrumental pieces are all very well played. Lidewij van der Voort also delivers fine contributions to several of the vocal items, for instance in E pur ver which is a dialogue of voice and violin.

This disc gives an interesting impression of what was sung and played in social gatherings in the decades around 1700. All the pieces are little-known and may even have been recorded here for the first time. That makes this disc an important addition to the discography. Thanks to the outstanding performances, this is a highly enjoyable and entertaining disc to which music lovers will return regularly.

Johan van Veen

Giovanni BONONCINI (1670-1747)
Il trionfo di Camilla Regina de' Volsci: E our ver [3:32]
Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725)
Io t'amerò [7:25]
Divertimento in B flat, op. 7,5 [9:44]
Carlo CAPROLI (1615/1620-1692/1695)
Begl'occhi [4:48]
Alessandro SCARLATTI
Là nel bel sen della regal Sirena [9:26]
Toccata settima [6:01]
Bella immago del mio bene [2:35]
Alessandro SCARLATTI
Pria che desto ai nitriti [7:55]
Salvatore LANZETTI (c1710-c1780)
Sonata for cello and bc, op. 2,5 [11:35]
Alessandro SCARLATTI
Cara sempre a gl'occhi miei [4:14]
Giovanni ZAMBONI (fl. early 18th C)
Ceccona, op. 1,8 [4:41]
Ma t'inganni [2:19]



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