musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Giovanni Lorenzo LULIER (c1660-1700): "Cantate e Sonate"

Francesca Boncompagni, soprano
Accademia Ottoboni
Dir: Marco Ceccato

rec: Dec 4 - 8, 2017, Cori, Chiesa di San Francesco
Alpha - 406 (© 2018) (54'16")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics - translations: E/F
Cover, track-list & booklet

anon: Sonata for cello and bc in F; Giovanni Lorenzo LULIER: Amor, di che tu vuoi; Ferma alato pensier; Là, dove a Pafo in seno; La Didone; Sonata for violin, cello and bc in D (attr)

Teresa Ceccato, violin; Marco Ceccato, cello; Francesco Romano, theorbo; Anna Fontana, harpsichord

The name of Giovanni Lorenzo Lulier is never omitted in any piece on the history of the cello. He had the nickname Giovannino del Violone, which indicates that he was quite famous as a player of the violone - not the instrument known today as such (the 16' violone grosso), but a kind of bass violin, which was around 1700 to be replaced by what is now generally known as the cello. Lulier was born and died in Rome and here he made a career as a player of the 'violone', first in the service of Cardinal Pamphili and then in the chapel of Cardinal Ottoboni. Unfortunately no composition for his own instrument from his pen has been preserved.

The Sonata in D for violin, cello and basso continuo is attributed to him, because the name of the composer is given as 'Giovanni del Violone', which is also the name used in the cantatas included here, which are definitely by Lulier. This sonata comprises four movements, whereas the very short Sonata in F for cello and basso continuo comes in three; here no composer is mentioned at all, and the liner-notes do not explain why it was included here.

The extant oeuvre of Lulier comprises only vocal works: operas, serenatas, oratorios and cantatas. Arcangelo Corelli composed the overture to his oratorio Beatrice d'Este. A few years ago I reviewed a recording of his serenata La Gloria, Roma e Valore. Otherwise little of his oeuvre has appeared on disc. That makes the present recording a major contribution to the discography. Interestingly it sheds some light on his activities as a composer for the cello, as in one cantata the cello is given an obbligato part and in other cantatas it now and then departs from the basso continuo.

The cantatas, almost certainly written for the gatherings of the Roman Arcadian Academy, of which Lulier's employer from 1690 to 1700, Cardinal Ottoboni, was a member, don't follow strictly the pattern which was being laid down by Alessandro Scarlatti. The programme opens with Amor, di che tu vuoi, which comprises three pairs of recitative and dacapo aria. The scoring is for soprano, cello and basso continuo. The cello has the most prominent part in the first aria, where it is the soprano's equal; the cello part is written on a separate stave. The soprano and the cello largely imitate each other.

Ferma alato pensier was performed in 1693 by Andrea Adami, a soprano castrato who was a member of the papal choir. Here the cello plays a concertante role in several arias; its part is notated in the tenor clef in the basso continuo line. This cantata opens with an arioso, which is followed by a sequence of arias and recitatives. The arias all have a dacapo, except the second. The third aria is notable as the basso continuo in the A part and the second section of the B part consists of a basso ostinato.

Là, dove a Pafo in seno is probably an early cantata, as the two arias are strophic. The scoring is for soprano, violin and basso continuo, and comprises two pairs of recitative and aria. The last item on this disc is also different from the common pattern. It is about one of the most popular subjects of baroque operas and cantatas: the tumultuous and tragic story of Dido, falling in love with Aeneas and then losing him, and putting herself out of her misery by killing herself. The cantata is dated around 1692 and the text was written by the poet Mario Reitani Spatafora, a member of the Arcadian Academy. It focuses on the last moments of Dido's life. It opens and closes with a recitative, embracing a lamento, called aria, in which arioso and recitative alternate. The last recitative ends with the line "[the point of a sword] cut short the thread of her life". This sudden end does not withhold Lulier to set this line in the form of an arioso, which is repeated a couple of times.

There is no lack of recordings of Italian chamber cantatas. It was one of the most popular forms of secular vocal music, and the Arcadian Academies in Rome and elsewhere greatly stimulated the composition of such pieces. Alessandro Scarlatti composed more than 600 cantatas. I don't think anyone would like to have them all on disc, even if that would be possible. However, this disc is definitely interesting as it includes cantatas which in several ways are different from what was to become the standard, especially because of the role of the cello. Considering that no compositions for the cello by Lulier have come down to us, these cantatas are a small compensation for this omission. They are very well written and confirm my positive impressions of the serenata mentioned above.

Francesca Boncompagni is a fine singer with a nice voice. She does well here, and the qualities of the cantatas are rather well conveyed. She uses a bit too much vibrato most of the time, but not as frequently as is common in so many recordings of this kind of repertoire and her vibrato is also not very wide. The playing of the instruments is excellent. There is every reason to investigate this disc.

Johan van Veen (© 2019)

Relevant links:

Francesca Boncompagni
Accademia Ottoboni

CD Reviews