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A due alti
Benedetto MARCELLO (1686-1739)
Felice chi vi mira, Duets S.420a [3:17]
Lontan dall'idol mio, Duets S.437 [5:04]
Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Caro autor di mia doglia, HWV 182a [8:17]
Cristofaro CARESANA (c.1640-1709)
Lamento degl'occhi per non potersi vedere l'un con l’altro [15:26]
Agostino STEFFANI (1654-1728)
Io mi parto [11:29]
Giovanni BONONCINI (1670-1747)
Per la morte di Ninfa [12:47]
Lasciami un sol momento [7:07]
Duetti da camera, Op. 8, No. 7. Sempre piango, Sempre rido [15:59]
Filippo Mineccia and Raffaele Pe (counter tenors)/La Venexiana/Claudio Cavina
Texts and translations included
rec. 2015, Cappella del Palazzo Vescovile, Lodi
GLOSSA GCD920942 [79:29]

A disc of chamber duets for two countertenors reveals more and more depth, not least when the two singers involved are as gifted as Filippo Mineccia and Raffaele Pe. They focus on Marcello, Caresana, Steffani and Bononcini, adding Handel’s Caro autor di mia doglia, HWV 182a but there is no sense of academic archaeology here, and very much a spirit of adventure and exploration.

The chamber duets, and the solo cantatas also performed, owe their origin to polyphonic madrigals for two voices and continuo. Charles Burney identified the rise of the duetto da camera and specifically noted the importance of Bononcini citing also later exponents of the genre such as Clari, Lotti, Hasse and Durante. The duetti possessed the expected forms of recitatives and arias with voices that often superimpose but also alternate, frequently with considerable reserves of virtuosity, as well as employing imitative elements, and elegant, indeed elevated harmonies.

They can also be extrovert and festive as Marcello’s Felice chi vi mira so aptly shows. The joyous feel here – ‘Happy are those’ is the literary conceit behind the music – is communicated with real freshness by both singers and by the vital and energising La Venexiana under Claudio Cavina. They are all very expressive in Handel’s duetto which he composed during his early years in Italy, but which is sung and played in the much later revision made when he was in England. The revision ensures a more brilliant, indeed florid element as well the equalization of the singers; originally it was composed for soprano and tenor. There are opportunities galore for imitation and in the technical skill required to surmount the contrapuntal writing.

In several of the pieces instrumental interpolations have been introduced. For example, Caresana’s wonderful Lamento degl'occhi per non potersi vedere l'un con l’altro opens with a harp solo taken from Greco’s second movement from his Toccata XIII published in 1762. Those who wish to invalidate this practice will have to forego the sound of two voices melding and melting together and parting, as well as the richly colourful instrumental finesse to be heard. Similarly, with Marcello’s Lontan dall'idol mio, where the instrumental introduction has been sourced from a piece by Alessandro Scarlatti. These introductions are performed with due regard to the performance practice of the time. There’s a dramatic harpsichord introduction to Bononcini’s Per la morte di Ninfa and a fine cello solo and obbligato contributions to this solo cantata. The same composer’s Lasciami un sol momento is the other solo cantata of great distinction. One can hear the different approaches and vocal productions of the two singers. Raffaele Pe has a less fervid and florid attack than Filippo Mineccia who certainly digs in athletically in this solo piece. Finally, there is Bononcini’s Sempre piango, Sempre rido with its long lines, excellent opportunities for individual instrumental contributions and great variety of tempo and texture.

This first-class album, graced by attractive notes and just as attractive an acoustic – warm but open – explores the genre imaginatively and vividly.

Jonathan Woolf


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