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Italia per sempre
Domenico SARRI (1679-1744)
Concerto in d minor [6:44]
Leonardo LEO (1694-1744)
Agnellino innocente [9:52]
Giovanni Antonio CANUTI (c1680-1739)
Sonata a flauto solo e basso in F [6:40]
Nicoḷ FIORENZA (?-1764)
Concerto in a minor [8:13]
Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725)
Venere e amore, serenata: sinfonia [4:44]
Sonata a flauto solo e basso [5:27]
Francesco MANCINI (1672-1737)
Dir vorrei quel bel contento [8:39]
Tomaso ALBINONI (1671-1750/51), arr. anonymous
Sonata a flauto solo e basso in a minor [9:29]
Domenico SARRI
Concerto in a minor [9:00]
Sinfonia a flauto solo [11:03]
Annelies Van Gramberen (soprano), Redherring Baroque Ensemble / Patrick Denecker (recorder)
rec. 2018, Begijnhof, Antwerp, Belgium
ANTARCTICA AR014 [79:49]

It is quite remarkable that, when the recorder in most countries was becoming overshadowed by the transverse flute, a considerable number of recorder sonatas and concertos were written in Naples. The largest part of the repertoire has been preserved in two sources. The first, a manuscript known as Manoscritto di Napoli 1725, includes pieces – called either concerto or sonata – by such composers as Alessandro Scarlatti, Domenico Sarri and Francesco Mancini. The second source is a collection put together by Aloys Thomas Raimund Count Harrach, initially a diplomat in the service of the Holy Roman Empire and ultimately viceroy of Naples. It is not easy to explain why so many pieces for the recorder were produced in Naples during the second quarter of the 18th century. The concertos may be the result of commisions from recorder players. In the case of the Harrach collection, either the count himself or someone in his household must have been a skilful player. Skilful indeed, because one of the features of the Neapolitan recorder repertoire is that it is often technically demanding, and certainly not within the grasp of the average amateur. That is in strong contrast with most of the repertoire from elsewhere in Europe, such as the many sonatas by Georg Philipp Telemann.

It is easy to understand that recorder players are very happy with this repertoire. It cannot surprise, then, that several discs have been devoted to concertos and sonatas by the likes of Scarlatti and Mancini, as well as some less known composers. I am pretty sure that the concertos by Sarri and Fiorenza’s Concerto in a minor included on this disc have been recorded before. I am not sure about the latter’s Sinfonia which ends the disc; his oeuvre is not very orderly. The Sinfonia is quite remarkable, especially because of the dramatic traits in the second movement. It is one of the pieces which show that Neapolitan music is often unjustly associated with easy listening stuff. I would also like to mention the opening amoroso from Sarri’s Concerto in d minor, which has a quite stubborn character.

Not all the music performed here is from Naples. The little-known Giovanni Battista Canuti was born and died in Lucca, a town at the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, west of Florence. He worked there for most of his life as maestro di cappella. Most of his oeuvre has been lost; secular cantatas are the main part of his extant output. The Sonata in F seems to be his only instrumental work. Tomaso Albinoni was from Venice, but the sonata played here was not intended for the recorder. It is an anonymous arrangement of his violin sonata No. 6 from the collection Trattenimenti armonici Op. 6. This arrangement is included in the Parmesan manuscript from which the sonata by Canuti is also taken.

With the anonymous sonata we are in Naples again, as this is taken from the Harrach collection. Also from Naples are the two cantatas. Their inclusion is a bit odd, because there is no connection between them and the rest of the programme, except their Neapolitan origin. It would have made more sense to turn to cantatas with an obbligato part for recorder. Agnellino innocente by Leonardo Leo, one of the main opera composers of his time, is for soprano and basso continuo, and has the common structure of two pairs of recitative and dacapo aria. Francesco Mancini was also one of the main personalities in Neapolitan music life of his time. Dir vorrei quel bel contento is for soprano, strings and basso continuo. Here two dacapo arias embrace a recitative.

The arias are well sung by Annelies Van Gramberen. She is rightly modest in her ornamentation, and takes the necessary rhythmic freedom in the recitatives. Unfortunately, she also uses a bit too much vibrato. These cantatas are nice pieces, but if one does not understand Italian, it is impossible to know what they are about and how the composers have set the text, since the booklet omits translations. That is a serious blot on this production.

The recorder concertos are very well played. As I noted, they have often more to offer than just pleasant entertainment, and Patrick Denecker conveys it perfectly. He is supported by a fine ensemble, with the brilliant and experienced Ryo Terakado as the first violin.

Johan van Veen

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