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Michele MASCITTI (1664-1760)
Sonata for violin and bc in F, op. 4,10 [08:26]
Giacomo FORNACI (1598-?)
Tirsi morir volea (Amorosa Brama) [03:07]
Frenò tirsi il desio (Amorosa Corrispondenza) [02:50]
Così morirono i fortunati amanti (Amoroso Fine) [01:13]
Fedele FENAROLI (1730-1818)
Sonata No. 2 in g minor [02:04]
Sonata No. 3 in C [01:30]
Sonata No. 5 in c minor [02:16]
Sonata for violin and bc in e minor, op. 4,11 [11:05]
Eccomi pronta ai baci (Amorosi Ardori) [02:35]
Arsi et alsi (Amor Difeso) [03:12]
Amor confuso [03:16]
Sonata No. 7 in D [02:20]
Sonata No. 8 in d minor [02:11]
Sonata No. 9 in D [01:27]
Sonata for violin and bc in A, op. 4,12 [08:28]
Labirinto Armonico
Recorded 2018 at the Chiesa di Lorenzo Martire, Mergo (AN), Italy
No texts
TACTUS TC660004 [56:06]

Three composers, three different generations, three different genres, all in one programme - that seems a bit odd. The composers have one thing in common: they were from the same region in Italy, Abruzzi, at the Adriatic Sea, northeast of Rome. Giacomo Fornaci and Michele Mascitti were born in Chieti, Fedele Fenaroli in Lanciano. Two of them are hardly known; Mascitti has enjoyed recent interest through recordings of some of his violin sonatas.

The earliest composer in the programme is Giacomo Fornaci. He gets just three lines in New Grove, as there is little known about him. The liner-notes to the present disc have little substantial to add. The pieces performed here are taken from his only extant collection of music, comprising arias for one, two and three voices with "the accompaniment of a chitarrone, harpsichord, or other similar instrument". Here, for some inexplicable reason, an organ is used, which I find rather odd. It is also a mystery to me, what exactly the violin is playing. It usually starts the proceedings; after a while, the mezzo-soprano Elisabetta Pallucchi enters. She has a nice voice, but should have reduced her vibrato. Nigel Fortune, in his short entry on Fornaci in New Grove, states that his music is "relentlessly undistinguished". I don't like that kind of general statements, and even on the basis of what is on offer here, it is impossible to assess the quality of these pieces, as the booklet omits the lyrics and these are also not available at the Tactus website. Given the importance of the text in vocal music of the early 17th century, this is a serious omission.

There are no such problems in the case of Mascitti. He began his career in the royal chapel in Naples, where his uncle - who also was his first teacher in music - acted as violinist. After travelling through Europe he settled in Paris, where he came under the patronage of the Duke of Orléans. The Duke was an ardent lover of Italian music and Mascitti was just one of the Italian musicians he took under his wing. This connection with the Duke allowed Mascitti to play at the court in Paris. He made such an impression that in 1714 he was granted a King's privilege to print for 15 years "collections of sonatas and other musical pieces, vocal as well as instrumental". This privilege was twice extended, in 1731 and 1740, and, as a sign of the appreciation of Mascitti, he was given French citizenship in 1739. It seems he was also generally liked as a person, because of his friendly character and his generosity. Mascitti died in Paris, at a ripe old age, in 1760.

Whereas most Italian composers, and certainly those from Naples, had a vivid interest in vocal music, and in particular in opera, Mascitti confined himself to instrumental music. His oeuvre is not very large: nine collections of sonatas for one or two violins and basso continuo were published between 1704 and 1738. Several of these were dedicated to members of the Crozat family, one of the richest and most powerful in France, which took him under their wing and granted him a pension during the last decades of his life. The way the various collections have been put together is noticeable. It was common use to print sets of six or twelve sonatas, but Mascitti derived from this habit. The Opp. 2 and 6 both include fifteen solo sonatas, whereas the Op. 4 comprises 14 sonatas: eight solo sonatas and six trio sonatas. Three of the latter are included here. These pieces are quite nice, although I think that Mascitti's qualities as a composer come best to the fore in his solo sonatas.

The latest composer is another unknown quantity. Fedele Fenaroli's first teacher in music was his father, who was maestro di cappella at S. Maria del Ponte in Lanciano. After his father's death, Fenaroli went to Naples, where he attended the Conservatorio di S. Maria di Loreto, where Francesco Durante was one of his teachers. At this same conservatoire, he would become a teacher himself; in 1777 he became its first maestro. During is whole life he was active as a teacher, especially of counterpoint. In addition to liturgical music, he produced pedagogical material, such as a collection of partimenti ("exercises in figured-bass playing, not so much as accompaniments to a solo instrument as self-contained pieces"; New Grove). It seems likely that the Intavolature e sonate per cembalo, from which Maurizio Maffezzoli has selected six sonatas, are also meant as such, considering that they are relatively uncomplicated. He elected to play them at the organ, which is perfectly legitimate. He plays a nice instrument, built in 1790 by Sebastiano Vici.

They are played very well, and with regard to performance, they are the best part of this disc. Labirinto Armonico does play Mascitti's trio sonatas quite nicely, but their sound is not that sophisticated, and the miking is a bit too close for comfort. On balance, I find it not easy to unequivocally recommend this disc, as the programme is so diverse, and the performances are a little uneven. As far as the quality of the music is concerned, Mascitti's trio sonatas are the best reason to purchase this disc.

Johan van Veen

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