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"Soleils Baroques"

Les Paladins
Dir: Jérôme Corréas
rec: Sept 2 - 7, 2007, Paris, Église du Bon Secours
Ambronay Éditions - AMY013 (© 2008) (70'11")

Marco MARAZZOLI (c1602-05-1662): La predica del Sole; Luigi ROSSI (1597/98?-1653): A chi vive ogn'hor contento; Cantata di Natale (Che brami ora più); Due labbra; La predica del Sole; Lasciate ch'io peni (Passacaille del sign Louigi); Lucciolette vaganti; M'uccidete begli occhi; Serenata a 3 voci (Hor che notte guerriera); Soffrirei con lieto core; Vorrei scoprirti un dì

Monique Zanetti, Barbara Kusa, soprano; Jean-François Lombard, Hervé Lamy, tenor; Arnaud Richard, bass; Françoise Duffaud, Guillaume Humbrecht, violin; Emmanuelle Guigues, viola da gamba; Thomas De Pierrefeu, violone; Rémi Cassaigne, theorbo, guitar; Angélique Mauillon, harp Jérôme Corréas, harpsichord, organ

This disc brings together two composers who were contemporaries and for some time were at the service of the Barberini family, which from the early 17th to the early 18th century were important patrons of composers. Among the composers at their service was also Frescobaldi. Marazzoli and Rossi were also invited by the Italian-born cardinal Mazarin in France in 1645 and 1647 respectively.

Not much is known about Luigi Rossi's early years; even the date and place of his birth are not exactly known. He worked mainly in Rome where he developed into the main composer of cantatas, alongside Giacomo Carissimi. Today Marco Marazzoli is the least-known of the two, but he also belonged to the most important composers in Rome. He was born in Parma and worked mainly in Rome, like Rossi. Although he composed some operas and oratorios, he was first and foremost known as composer of cantatas, scored for 1 to 6 voices and bc.

The connection between Rossi and Marazzoli on this disc is the work which begins and ends the programme: La predica del Sole (The sermon of the Sun). It is a dialogue between the Sun and a community of mortals. In this poem, written by Giovanni Lotti, the Sun states he is "a monster of horror, a phantom of oblivion" in comparison to him who conceals in an "inexhaustible light". He also encourages the mortals to choose the path to heaven for which only "a step of bold innocence suffices". Texts like these were closely associated with the devotional and didactic practices in the oratories in Rome. Music was performed "to attain the desired aim [spiritual enlightenment] and to attract, through sweet deception, sinners to the holy exercises of the Oratory", according to composer and singer Orazio Griffi.

The way this text has been put to music by Rossi and Marazzoli is quite different. The setting by Luigi Rossi is rather introverted and has strong reminiscences of the madrigal. In contrast, Marazzoli treats the text in the manner of an opera, with spice dissonances and some sudden pauses.

The title of this disc, "Baroque Suns", refers to this piece, but also to the programme as a whole for which the theme of light is used as a linking thread. The Cantata di Natale by Rossi is one of the many pieces written for Christmastide, and contains two three-part sections embracing a solo for soprano.

The other pieces by Rossi are for one to three voices. M'uccidete begli occhi is written for soprano solo in the style of a monody: "Lovely eyes, you are killing me, yet I adore you". A very expressive piece is the trio Lasciate ch'io peni, which is written on a passacaglia: "Leave me to suffer, sorrowing thoughts". The most dramatic piece and rather close to opera is the Serenata a tre voci, which is a dialogue between a lover on the one hand and Love and Fortune on the other. It is about unhappy love, as most pieces are. The most joyful work here is A chi vive ognor contento: "For one who is always happy, each month is springtime".

Les Paladins has much experience with music of this kind. On the whole their performances are lively and mostly quite theatrical, but they have no problems with the more introverted pieces either. There is just one aspect which make me consider their performances less than ideal, and that is the consistent use of a pretty wide vibrato by Monique Zanetti. Her voice is very different from Barbara Kusa's, which in itself is a virtue, but the lack of blending is not. It also spoils some ensembles a little.

Even so, this is an enjoyable and recommedable recording which give some examples of the huge oeuvre Rossi and Marazzoli have left. There is still much to discover in this respect, and this disc can give some idea about the quality of their respective compositions.

Johan van Veen (© 2009)

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