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"Italia per sempre"

Annelies Van Gramberen, sopranoa
RedHerring Baroque Ensemble
Dir: Patrick Denecker

rec: August 2018, Antwerp, Begijnhof
Antarctica - AR 014 (© 2019) (79'49")
Liner-notes: E/NL; lyrics - no translations
Cover & track-list

Tomaso ALBINONI (1671-1750/51), arr anon: Sonata a flauto solo e basso in a minor; anon: Sonata a flauto solo e basso; Giovanni Antonio CANUTI (c1680-1739): Sonata a flauto solo e basso in F; Nicoḷ FIORENZA (?-1764): Concerto in a minor; Sinfonia a flauto solo; Leonardo LEO (1694-1744): Agnellino innocentea; Francesco MANCINI (1672-1737): Dir vorrei quel bel contentoa; Domenico SARRI (1679-1744): Concerto in d minor; Concerto in a minor; Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725): Venere e amore, serenata (sinfonia)

Patrick Denecker, recorder; Ryo Terakado, Dirk Vandaele, violin; Valerio Latartara, violin, viola; Kaori Uemura, viola da gamba; Jan Bontinck, cello; Philippe Malfeyt, theorbo, guitar; Guy Penson, harpsichord

It is quite remarkable that at a time in which the recorder in most countries was in the process of being overshadowed by the transverse flute, a considerable number of recorder sonatas and concertos were written in Naples. The largest part of the repertoire has been preserved in two sources. The first is a manuscript known as Manoscritto di Napoli 1725, which includes pieces, either called concerto or sonata, by composers as Alessandro Scarlatti, Domenico Sarri and Francesco Mancini. The second source is a collection put together by Aloys Thomas Raimund Count Harrach, initially a diplomat in the service of the Holy Roman Empire and ultimately viceroy of Naples. It is not easy to explain why so many pieces for the recorder were produced in Naples during the second quarter of the 18th century. The concertos may be the result of commisions from recorder players. In the case of the Harrach collection, either the count himself or someone in his household must have been a skilful player of the recorder. Skilful indeed, because one of the features of the Neapolitan recorder repertoire is that it is often technically demanding, and certainly not within the grasp of the average amateur. That is in strong contrast to most of the repertoire from elsewhere in Europe, such as the sonatas by Georg Philipp Telemann.

It is easy to understand that recorder players are very happy with this repertoire, and therefore it cannot surprise that several discs have been devoted to concertos and sonatas by the likes of Scarlatti and Mancini as well as some lesser-known composers. I am pretty sure that the concertos by Sarri and Fiorenza's Concerto in a minor which are included in the present disc, have been recorded before. I am not sure about the latter's Sinfonia a flauto solo which ends this disc; Fiorenza's oeuvre is not very orderly. It is one of the more remarkable pieces, especially because of the dramatic traits in the second movement. It is one of the pieces which show that Neapolitan music is often unjustly associated with easy listening stuff. I would also like to mention the opening amoroso from Sarri's Concerto in d minor, which has a quite stubborn character.

Not all the music performed here is from Naples. The little-known Giovanni Battista Canuti was born and died in Lucca, a town at the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, west of Florence. There he worked for most of his life as maestro di cappella. Most of his oeuvre has been lost; the main part of his extant output comprises secular cantatas. The Sonata in F seems to be his only instrumental work. Tomaso Albinoni was from Venice, but the sonata played here was not intended for the recorder. It is an anonymous arrangement of his violin sonata No. 6 from the collection Trattenimenti armonici Op. 6.. This arrangement is included in the Parmesan manuscript from which the sonata by Canuti is also taken.

With the anonymous sonata we are in Naples again, as this is part of the Harrach collection. Also from Naples are the two cantatas. Their inclusion is a bit odd, as there is no connection between them and the rest of the programme, except their Neapolitan origin. It would have made more sense to turn to cantatas with an obbligato part for recorder. Agnellino innocente by Leonardo Leo, one of the main opera composers of his time, is for soprano and basso continuo and has the common structure of two pairs of recitative and dacapo aria. Francesco Mancini was also one of the main personalities in Neapolitan music life of his time. Dir vorrei quel bel contento is for soprano, strings and basso continuo. Here two dacapo arias embrace a recitative.

They are well sung by Annelies Van Gramberen, who rightly is modest in her ornamentation and takes the necessary rhythmic freedom in the recitatives. Unfortunately she also uses a bit too much vibrato. These cantatas are nice pieces, but if you don't understand Italian, it is impossible to know what they are about and how the composers have set the text, as the booklet omits translations. That is a serious blot on this production.

The recorder concertos are very well played. As I indicated, they have often more to offer than just pleasant entertainment, and that is perfectly conveyed by Patrick Denecker. He is supported by a fine ensemble, with the brilliant and experienced Ryo Terakado as its first violin.

Johan van Veen (© 2020)

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Annelies Van Gramberen

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