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"Bella Immago"

Capriola Di Gioia

rec: Feb 2015, Bruges, Hospital Onze-Lieve-Vrouw (chapel)
Aeolus - AE-10093 (© 2016) (74'38")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics - translations: E/D/F
Cover & track-list

Giovanni BONONCINI (1670-1747): Bella immago del mio beneabcfh; Divertimento in B flat, op. 7,5bg [2]; Il trionfo di Camilla Regina de' Volsci (E pur ver)abcfg; Ma t'inganniabcfg; Carlo CAPROLI (1615/20-1692/95): Begl'occhiacd; Salvatore LANZETTI (c1710-c1780): Sonata for cello and bc, op. 2,5cg [3]; Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725): Cara sempre a gl'occhi mieiabd; Io t'ameròabceh; Là nel bel sen della regal Sirenaacdgh; Pria che desto ai nitritiaceg; Toccata settimafg; Giovanni ZAMBONI (fl early 18th C): Ceccona, op. 1,8e [1]

Sources: [1] Giovanni Zamboni, Sonate d'intavolatura di leuto, op. 1, 1718; [2] Giovanni Bononcini, Divertimenti da camera, op. 8, 1722; [3] Salvatore Lanzetti, Six solos for two violoncellos, op. 2, 1740

Amaryllis Dieltiens, sopranoa; Lidewij van der Voort, violinb; Catherine Jones, celloc; Mike Fentross, chitarroned; Jurgen De bruyn, archlutee, guitarf; Bart Naessens, harpsichordg, organh

Today early music is one of the most flourishing parts of music life. That is largely due to the interest in early performance practice, which developed in the 1950s and 1960s. However, the interest in music of the past in fact dates from the 19th century. Several composers were interested in and influenced by composers of previous centuries, such as Bach and Handel. The 19th century also saw the birth of musicology which paid attention to composers of the renaissance and baroque periods. Catalogues of the oeuvre of composers were published, music was edited and printed, manuscripts were collected and studied. One of those who had a vivid interest in music of the past was François-Joseph Fétis (1784-1871), a Belgian musicologist and composer, appointed director of the Brussels Conservatory in 1833. To him we owe the collection of music from which the pieces on the present disc are taken.

The programme reflects the music which was performed in social gatherings in the decades around 1700, especially in Italy, in the so-called academies, but not only there. Italian music was popular across Europe and various Italian composers travelled north to look for employment. One of them was Giovanni Bononcini, born in Modena, who worked for several years at the imperial court in Vienna before moving to London where he would become Handel's main rival in the field of opera. In Rome he became a member of the Arcadian Academy, to which also Corelli and Alessandro Scarlatti belonged.

The latter takes the central stage in the programme; that is understandable as he was the main composer of chamber cantatas. This was one of the most popular genres of secular vocal music. Such cantatas were frequently performed during the meetings of the academies, known as conversazioni. The composers themselves were often involved in the performance of their works. Scarlatti laid the foundation of the genre: its basic form was two pairs of recitative and aria, usually scored for a solo voice - mostly soprano or alto - with basso continuo, sometimes with the addition of one or two parts for a treble instrument. However, Scarlatti himself regularly deviated from this form, by extending the number of recitatives and arias or by adding an instrumental introduction. As he composed his cantatas over a pretty long period, some changes in the texture of his cantatas can be observed, and that includes the cantatas recorded here. Some arias are strophic, others are through-composed and there are also some which have a dacapo. The latter would become the standard in the 18th century. It is notable that many recitatives end with an arioso-like phrase, which makes for a natural transition to the ensuing aria.

Chamber cantatas have certainly much in common with opera. They were, however, performed in the intimacy of the academies, and that lends them a different character. They are mostly not dramatic; as only one singer is involved there is no real dialogue between characters. The singer takes different roles: in Cara sempre, for instance, it is Fileno who sings the arias, but in the second recitative the singer takes the role of a reporter, stating "Fileno was saying these things one day under shadowy green myrtles". This has also consequences for the way these cantatas are performed. Amaryllis Dieltiens has the ideal voice for this repertoire: sweet, warm and flexible. Her diction and articulation are excellent. She is quite impressive in the performance of the recitatives, which have exactly the right amount of rhythmic freedom. She uses quite some dynamic differentiation in the interest of expression. In the arias she effectively colours her voice to express different feelings and situations. This seems how such music was performed in the meetings of the academies.

In addition to the cantatas we hear several arias. One of them opens the programme: 'E pur ver' is from Giovanni Bononcini's most famous opera, Il trionfo di Camilla which was performed no fewer than 63 times in London between 1706 and 1709. The other arias are independent pieces, although we cannot rule out some of them coming from lost operas. They are all written in the dacapo form. In this part of the programme we meet one unknown master: Carlo Caproli who is from an earlier generation than Bononcini and Scarlatti. He lived and worked in Rome in the mid-17th century. In his time he was the leading composer of chamber cantatas, and in this department he was the forerunner of Scarlatti.

In between the vocal items we hear some instrumental works. The Divertimento in B flat by Bononcini is from a set of eight which appeared in two editions in London in 1722: one for transverse flute or violin and bc, and one for harpsichord. Like Bononcini, Scarlatti was best known for his vocal works. It is generally assumed that his keyboard works were written for educational purposes, but that doesn't justify the derogatory description of 'pupil fodder' in New Grove. They give us also some idea of where his son Domenico got his talent as a keyboard player from. In the second and third sections of the Toccata settima Bart Naessens is joined by Jurgen De bruyn at the guitar; I can't figure out why. From around 1700 the cello became increasingly popular and in the first half of the 18th century a considerable number of editions with chamber music for the cello were published. This is documented here by the inclusion of the Sonata V by Salvatore Lanzetti, who performed across Europe, for instance in Paris and in London. In the latter city his Six solos for two violoncellos op. 2 were published from which the sonata in the programme is taken. Lastly Jurgen De bruyn plays a piece by Giovanni Zamboni, a virtuoso on several plucked instruments, such as the lute and the mandolin. The Ceccona is taken from a collection printed in 1718. The instrumental pieces are all very well played. Lidewij van der Voort also delivers fine contributions to several of the vocal items, for instance in E pur ver which is a dialogue of voice and violin.

This disc gives an interesting impression of what was sung and played in social gatherings in the decades around 1700. All the pieces are little-known and may even have been recorded here for the first time. That makes this disc an important addition to the discography. Thanks to the outstanding performances, this is a highly enjoyable and entertaining disc to which music lovers will return regularly.

Johan van Veen (© 2017)

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