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Passions - Venezia 1600-1750
Les Cris de Paris/Geoffroy Jourdain
rec. 2018, Temple du Saint-Esprit, Paris
Texts and translations included
Reviewed as 16/44 download with pdf booklet from Outhere
HARMONIA MUNDI HMM902632 [75:56]

The title of this disc with mainly vocal music from the baroque era is well chosen. The expression of human passions - affetti - and its communication to the audience was the main purpose of composers. The programme includes both sacred and secular pieces; the latter category is mostly represented by short instrumental items. As Geoffroy Jourdain rightly states in the booklet, there was no watershed between the two in the baroque era. The pieces performed here show that composers used the same devices for sacred and for secular music.

The word 'Passions' can also be used in a more specific way, as a reference to a particular kind of emotions. The settings of the Crucifixus - a part of the Credo from Mass, but often also set as separate items - are the thread of the programme. In these pieces composers turned in particular to harmony in order to express the affetti connected to the Passion of Christ. Chromaticism and dissonances were frequently applied in such music. At the same time, it is notable that this short text was set in so many different ways. Monteverdi's setting is dominated by descending chromatic figures. Antonio Lotti's setting for ten voices is particularly striking: it opens with a sequence of vigorous chords in the basso continuo, which undoubtedly illustrate the nails being hammered into the Cross. The dissonances Lotti uses in his Crucifixus settings, also manifest themselves in his spiritual madrigal In una siepe ombrosa. This was a popular genre at the time; Monteverdi's questa vita un lampo is another specimen, taken from the collection Selva morale e spirituale.

The latter piece is one of the lesser-known items in the programme. Another one is the Dialogo delle due Marie 'Quam amarum est Maria' by Giovanni Legrenzi, a composer who is almost exclusively known for his instrumental music. It is another piece for Passiontide. The two Mary's lament the absence of Jesus as a result of his death: "How bitter it is, Mary, to be without Jesus". It consists of two sections, ending with the refrain: "O Jesus, most sweet, most clement, most beloved Jesus, and have mercy upon us". This is the expressive highlight of this dialogue, again a specimen of a very popular genre, which is clearly connected to opera. Monteverdi's Adoramus te Christe also refers to Christ's Passion: "We adore thee, o Christ, and we bless thee, because by thy holy Passion and Cross thou hast redeemed the world. Have mercy upon us". Monteverdi uses harmonic tools to express those words.

Like Legrenzi, Cavalli is a composer, whose sacred music is not that well known. Today he is mainly considered an opera composer. His skills in setting a sacred text come to the fore in the Salve Regina, one of the four Marian antiphons. Another piece about the Virgin Mary opens the programme. In Tarquinio Merula's Canzonetta spirituale sopra alla nanna she sings a lullaby for baby Jesus. It is one of the most famous items in the baroque repertoire for Advent and Christmas. However, it has some very dark streaks, as the text emphatically refers to Jesus' Passion. How to perform this piece? One the one hand, a lullaby requires a rather intimate atmosphere, and a more or less restrained interpretation. On the other hand, the piece includes graphic descriptions of what awaits Jesus at the end of his life. Most performers emphasize these episodes through a more dramatic approach, but as far as I can remember, few go as far as Michiko Takahashi here, who turns to an almost operatic way of singing. I am not sure whether this is in line with the composer's intention, but it is definitely very well done and a nice alternative to other interpretations.

It is one of the two pieces for solo voices in the programme, the other being Legrenzi's dialogue. Both are sung very well by members of the vocal ensemble. Les Cris de Paris have made a good impression in performing music from around 1600 before (review), and this is another very fine disc. Geoffroy Jourdain and his singers and players have grasped the character of the repertoire really well, as they deliver truly passionate performances. I also like the way the programme has been put together. The choice of vocal items makes much sense, and the instrumental music fits the nature of the programme. This disc is a nice addition to the repertoire for Passiontide, but can be listened to at other times as well.

Johan van Veen

Tarquinio MERULA (c1594/95-1665)
Hor ch'`e tempo di dormire (Canzonetta spirituale sopra alla nanna) [09:11]
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643)
Crucifixus a 4 (SV 259) [03:33]
Orfeo (SV 318):
sinfonia [01:28]
Francesco CAVALLI (1602-1676)
Salve Regina [06:40]
Giovanni LEGRENZI (1626-1690)
Sonata VI a 4 (op. 10):
adagio [02:28]
Antonio LOTTI (1666-1740)
In una siepe ombrosa [07:24]
Crucifixus a 10 [02:40]
Ballo delle ingrate (SV 167):
entrata [05:21]
Dialogo delle due Marie (Quam amarum est Maria) [05:29]
Antonio LOTTI
Crucifixus a 8 [02:59]
Cantate Domino (SV 292) (exc)
Adoramus te Christe (SV 289) [05:09]
Antonio LOTTI
Crucifixus a 6 [02:19]
Chi vol che m'innamori (SV 256):
ritornello [01:42]
Antonio CALDARA (1671-1736)
Crucifixus a 16 [04:25]
Giovanni GABRIELI (c1555-1612)
Exaudi me Domine a 16 (C 82) [06:00]
Biagio MARINI (1594-1663)
Sinfonia 6 tuono (op. 22) [01:40]
Balletto secondo Pretirata (op. 22) [00:56]
questa vita un lampo (SV 254) [02:29]
Balletto secondo Pretirata (dacapo) [01:04]

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