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"Bella Napoli"


rec: Nov 2008, Espoo (Finland), Olari Church
ALBA - ABCD 315 (© 2011) (64'57")

Francesco MANCINI (1672-1737): Sonata IV for recorder and bc in a minorbdf; Nicola PORPORA (1686-1768): Sonata for cello and bc in Fdef; Giuseppe PORSILE (1680-1750): E già tre volte, cantata for soprano, recorder and bcabdef; Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725): Quella pace gradita, cantata for soprano, recorder, violin, cello and bcabcdef; Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757): No, non fuggire o Nice, cantata for soprano and bcadef; Sonata for violin and bc in G (K 91)cdef

Tuuli Lindeberg, sopranoa; Hanna Haapamäki, recorderb; Mervi Kinnarinen, violinc; Jussi Seppänen, cellod; Eero Palviainen, lute, guitare; Markku Mäkinen, harpsichordf

Naples has always been one of the musical metropolises of Italy, but it became especially important in the first half of the 18th century. Many composers were active in the city, in particular in the realm of opera, and a number of them were also teachers at the various conservatoires. In particular in the 1730s the Neapolitan style began to disseminate across Italy, and even beyond the Italian borders. Some of the best castratos were pupils of one of Naples' most famous composers, Nicola Porpora. One of them was Farinelli, who scored triumphs all over Europe.

This disc brings a programme of music by composers from Naples, although probably not every single piece was composed in Naples. Nicola Porpora and Francesco Mancini were mainly known as composers of music for the theatre, but are represented here with instrumental pieces. It can hardly surprise that these show the traces of their activities in the theatre. In Mancini's Sonata IV in a minor this is somewhat limited, especially because of the relatively small dynamic range of the recorder. The opening movement is the most dramatic, consisting of two contrasting sections: a lively spiritoso suddenly shifting into a largo. It doesn't quite come off here. Otherwise the playing is fine, in particular rhythmically. The closing movement is an allegro spiccato - in the baroque era the term spiccato is synonymous with staccato.

In comparison Porpora's Sonata in F is more dramatic, and the cello's wider dynamic range is fully explored. The first allegro is particularly well played, with strong dynamic accents. The following adagio shows a great amount of expression, and the sonata ends with a more relaxed allegro non presto, in a nice dancing rhythm. Domenico Scarlatti hasn't written many pieces for an instrumental ensemble. Here his Sonata for violin and bc in G is played, strangely enough catalogued by Kirkpatrick among the keyboard sonatas. It comprises two expressive graves, which are beautifully played by Mervi Kinnarinen. The two allegros have an infectious rhythmic pulse which is underlined by dynamic accents on the good notes.

Domenico Scarlatti also composed many chamber cantatas, and this part of his oeuvre gets little attention. I wasn't able to find out when No, non fuggire o Nice was written. In the liner-notes of another recording it is suggested the cantata could have been written for the above-mentioned Farinelli who was in Spain when Domenico was also working there. The cantata consists of two recitative-aria pairs. The second aria in particular has a dramatic character, which Tuuli Lindeberg explores well. She colours her voice nicely, and her lower register is remarkably strong. The delivery is also good, and she takes some liberties in the recitatives. Some words could have been given a little more weight, though. That is also the case in the cantata by Domenico's father Alessandro. It is bad fortune that only last year another disc was released with this same cantata, by Clara Rottsolk and the Tempesta di Mare Chamber Players. Ms Rottsolk gives more expression to the text in the recitatives, but the instrumentalists accompanying her are sometimes a little too restrained. That is certainly not the case here: the instrumental parts are executed with theatrical flair. The scoring is rather unusual: recorder, violin, cello and bc. The cantata opens with a sinfonia with two andante sections in which the ensemble is split into two: recorder and bc versus violin and cello. There is some good text expression in the first aria, and the lyricism of the second comes off well in Ms Lindeberg's performance.

Lastly the only unknown composer of the programme: Giuseppe Porsile. His first appointment was as vicemaestro di cappella of the Spanish chapel in Naples, but in 1695 he was asked by Charles II to organise the music chapel in Barcelona. He served Charles' successor Charles III, and followed him to Vienna in 1711, when he was crowned emperor. There Porsile remained, composing many operas and oratorios. It is not very likely that Porsile's cantata performed here was composed in Naples. E già tre volte is scored for soprano, recorder and bc, and the two soloists blend perfectly. The first aria is especially expressive, with some chromaticism in the vocal part and the basso continuo, inspired by the text: "My harsh fate seems to pity me for my unhappiness".

Baccano is a Finnish early music ensemble which was founded in 2003. As far as I know this is their first commercial recording, and it is a very fine one. I am impressed by both the technical skills of the individual artists as well as their approach to the music. Their performances are lively and energetic, and the interpretation is well-considered. This is definitely a group to follow and I look forward to their next recordings.

Johan van Veen (© 2011)

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