musica Dei donum

CD reviews

"Ohimè - Love, passion and mystery in baroque Italy"

Capriola Di Gioia

rec: Feb 2010, Brughes, Begijnhofkerk
Aeolus - AE-10043 (© 2011) (70'58")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics - translations: E/D/F
Cover & track-list

Benedetto FERRARI (c1603-1681): Queste pungenti [11]; Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643): Capriccio di durezzec [6]; Ohimè, che fur che sono [8]; Giovanni Girolamo KAPSBERGER (c1580-1651): Avrilla mia [2]; Ite sospiri miei [2]; Toccata in f minora [1]; Viva speranza [3]; Stefano LANDI (1590-1631): A che più l'arco tendere [7]; Nicola MATTEIS (c1670-c1698): Il dolce contento [12]; Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643): Eri già tutta mia [9]; Io che armato sin hor [9]; Maledetto sia l'aspetto [9]; Ohimè ch'io cado [5]; Perchè se m'odiavi [10]; Quel sguardo sdegnosetto [9]; Si dolce è'l tormento [5]; Giovanni PICCHI (1571/72-1643): Pass'e mezzob [4]; Girolamo PIGNANI (17th C): Ah crudele e perche [12]

Sources: Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger, [1] Libro I d'intavolatura di lauto, 1611; [2] Libro II di villanelle, 1619; [3] Libro III di villanelle, 1619; [4] Giovanni Picchi, Intavolatura di balli, 1621; [5] Carlo Milanuzzi (ed), Quarto scherzo delle ariose vaghezze, 1624; [6] Girolamo Frescobaldi, Il primo libro di capricci, 1626; [7] Stefano Landi, Il secondo libro d’arie musicali, 1627; [8] Girolamo Frescobaldi, Secondo libro d'arie musicali per cantarsi, 1630; [9] Claudio Monteverdi, Scherzi musicali, 1632; [10] Alessandro Vincento (ed), Arie di diversi raccolte, 1634; [11] Benedetto Ferrari, Musiche varie, libro secondo, 1637; [12] Girolamo Pignani (ed), Scelta di canzonette italiane de piu autore, 1679

Amaryllis Dieltiens, soprano; Hendrik-Jan Wolfert, violone; Jurgen De bruyn, archlute [solo a], guitar; Bart Naessens, harpsichord [solo b], organ [c]

The Italian music of the early 17th century, with its amount of expression and its sense of experiment, never ceases to inspire musicians. Every year a number of recordings with this kind of repertoire is released. Unfortunately the same pieces turn up again and again, although there is still a large amount of music which needs to be discovered. This disc contains some familiar pieces too, but it also includes lesser-known or even unknown compositions.

What makes this disc especially welcome is the performance of parts of the oeuvre of composers who are mainly known for pieces in other genres. That is the case with Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger, who was moving in the highest circles in Rome as a celebrated player of the theorbo. It is far lesser known that he also wrote a large amount of vocal music. Only recently I reviewed a disc with his oratorio for Christmastide I Pastori di Bettelemme. He also published a considerable number of books with secular music. From two books with villanellas - songs of a more or less light-hearted character - three pieces have been chosen which show his great skills in setting a text to music.

Girolamo Frescobaldi is mainly known as one of the most important composers of keyboard music whose influence reaches as far as Johann Sebastian Bach. He also composed instrumental music and some collections of vocal music. One of his contemporaries stated that he had little feeling for a text, and that his wife had to explain the meaning of poems to him before he set them to music. Over the years his vocal output has been recorded, and the author has been proven wrong. Ohimè, che fur, che sono which opens this disc, is a fine specimen of Frescobaldi's art of composing for the voice.

Benedetto Ferrari is another important figure in Italian music of the 17th century who has worked in various cities. His music for the theatre has been lost, and in his liner-notes Pieter Dirksen rightly states that this has to be considered a major loss. Queste pungenti, a cantata spirituale gives a good idea of the quality of his vocal writing. It is a lament on a thorns of Jesus at the cross which is just as penetrating as the famous Pianto di Madonna by Monteverdi. It is in four stanzas, with a recurring ritornello in the form of a recitative. Stefano Landi is best known for his opera La morte d'Orfeo and his sacred drama Il Sant'Alessio. He was also a prolific writer of arie musicale, of which here one specimen can be heard - the ironic A che più l'arco tendere.

Pieter Dirksen has divided his liner-notes into three paragraphs: Rome, Venice and London. The former two won't surprise as they were two centres of composing in the monodic style in Italy. But what about London? Interestingly two specimens have been selected from a collection of Italian pieces which appeared in London in 1679. It was compiled by an immigrant from Italy, Girolamo Pignani. He himself is represented with an expressive piece, Ah crudele, ah credel' e perche. The other piece from this collection is by Nicola Matteis, another immigrant from Italy who surprised his English audiences with his virtuosic playing of the violin. Very few vocal compositions are known by him, so it is surprising to find a kind of cantata here. In its texture Il dolce contento shows the changes in vocal composition since the middle of the 17th century.

Dirksen makes mention of the fact that Claudio Monteverdi has little contributed to the genre of the monody. He preferred to incorporate the monodic style in his dramatic madrigals and in his operas. The items from his oeuvre which have been recorded here belong to the small output in the genre of the monody. No wonder they are frequently performed and recorded in solo programmes and recordings. They are of supreme quality, but require the utmost attention from the singer. The need to express the text can easily go wrong, in particular in pieces like Maledetto sia l'aspetto, and Ohimè ch'io cado which closes the programme. Fortunately Amaryllis Dieltiens has avoided any vulgarization. She is the real star of this recording: she has a very beautiful and agile voice, which is ideally suited for this kind of repertoire. The delivery is of utmost importance, and that aspect of her interpretation is quite impressive. She also shows great interpretational skills in bringing out the meaning of a piece. Monteverdi's monodies come off perfectly, with the help of the various colours of her voice, and Ferrari's Questi pungenti is deeply moving. Also important is the dynamic range of her voice which is necessary to make an effective use of the messa di voce. I should not forget to mention the instrumentalists who deliver excellent performances in the vocal items as well as in the instrumental pieces.

I can only strongly recommend this disc. It is simply a beauty, one of the best I have heard recently.

Johan van Veen (© 2012)

Relevant links:

Capriola Di Gioia

CD Reviews