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"Amor tiranno - Broken-hearted lovers in seventeenth-century Venice"

Carlo Vistoli, alto
Sezione Aurea
Dir: Filippo Pantieri

rec: Dec 27 - 30, 2018, Longiano, Castello Malatestiano - Fondazione Tito Balestra (Sala dell'Arengo)
Arcana - A474 (© 2020) (70'45")
Liner-notes: E/F/IT; lyrics - translations: E/F
Cover, track-list & booklet

Francesco CAVALLI (1602-1676): Apollo e Dafne (Ohimè, che miro? Ohimè dunque, in alloro - Misero Apollo, i tuoi trionfi or vanta, rec & lamento; Giove, crea novo lume, io più non voglio; A te ricorro, onnipotente Amore); Erismena (Che veggio? Oh dèi, fermate - Uscitemi dal cor, lacrime amare, rec & lamento); La Didone (Per eccesso d'affetto; Che ti diss'io); Giovanni CERESINI (1584-c1659): Tornate, o cari bacic [2]; Benedetto FERRARI (1597-1681): Amanti, io vi so dire [4]; Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643): Così mi disprezzate (Aria di Passagaglia) [3]; Filiberto LAURENZI (1618-after 1651): Chi può mirar costei e poi non dire [5]; Tarquinio MERULA (1595-1665): Sonata cromaticac; Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643): L'incoronazione di Poppea (Ad altri tocca in sorteab; Ahi, chi si fida in un bel volto; I miei sùbiti sdegni; Sprezzami quanto sai); Ohimè, ch'io cado, ohimè [1]; Si dolce è 'l tormento [1]; Francesco SACRATI (1605-1650): La finta pazza (Se ad un altro si sposa)

Sources: [1] Claudio Monteverdi, Quarto scherzo delle ariose vaghezze, 1624; [2] Giovanni Ceresini, Madrigali concertati, op. 4, 1627; [3] Girolamo Frescobaldi, Primo libro d'arie musicali per cantarsi, 1630; [4] Benedetto Ferrari, Musiche e poesie varie a voce sola, Libro terzo, 1641; [5] Filiberto Laurenzi, Concerti et arie a una, due, e tre voci, 1641

Lucia Cortese, sopranoa; Federica Bacchi, Elisa Venturini, recorderb; Gabriele Raspanti, Francesca Camagni, violin; Rosita Ippolito, viola da gamba, violone in G; Sebastiano Severi, cello; Lorenzo Gabellini, violone; Elisa La Marca, theorbo, guitar; Filippo Pantieri, harpsichord (soloc); Marco Muzzati, percussion

"Lovers, I can tell you that it's far better to flee from a charming lady, be she cruel or merciful. In every manner and way it's folly to die for love". This is the text of the first stanza of Amanti, io vi so dire by Bendetto Ferrari. It could well serve as the motto of this disc, which is devoted to expressions of unhappy love and conflicts about unrequited love or between a lover and his loved one who breaks up with him. Love has always been the main subject of secular music, and in that respect there is no difference between the different periods in music history. However, the way it was treated was different from one era to the other.

"The baroque period declared war on the Renaissance. Instead of poetic avowals glorifying the female beauty and pure, courtly love, the baroque age proposed frustrated affections, with the earlier ideal of eternal beauty replaced by the ugliness of everyday life, and allegorical reflection of the conflicts that Italy, and Europe as a whole, were experiencing during the 1600s, the 'Iron Century'". Thus opens Jean-François Lattarico, professor of Italian literature and culture at the Université Lyon 3 Jean Moulin, his liner-notes. I wonder whether that is a little exaggerated. Madrigals of the 16th century also deal with unhappy love, and women showing the cold shoulder on those who were after them. The main difference seems to me the way the feelings were expressed.

The 17th century, at least in Italy, was the era of opera. It was a new genre, which emerged around 1600, and was the fruit of a general movement towards the importance of affetti, to be expressed in music with words, set to music that was their servant. The pieces included in the programme are of a marked operatic nature, in which the protagonists vent their anger, often followed by frustration and sadness, about their fate in the realm of love.

It is the time protagonists express their conflicting feelings on the stage, and vent their sadness in laments, which developed into a genre of their own. Such laments were part of operas, but could also be separate pieces, and were soon imitated in sacred music. The disc opens with extracts from operas by Francesco Cavalli, the main opera composer in Venice after the death of Claudio Monteverdi. 'Misero Apollo, i tuoi trionfi or vanta' from Gli amori di Apollo e Dafne (1640) and 'Uscitemi dal cor, lacrime amare' from Erismena (1655) are impressive examples of this genre. From La Didone (1641) we get a short aria, preceded by a recitativic episode in the declamatory style that was in vogue at the time, in which Iarbas, King of Getulia, complains about the tricks that Cupid has played on him. Conflicts are the subject of Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea. In Act II, scene 7, Ottone says: "My bursts of anger, and my designs lately led me to think of killing Poppea". In Act I, scene 11 Ottone and Poppea alternate in expressing their thoughts and feelings.

Benedetto Ferrari was an important composer of operas, but all his works for the stage have been lost. In this programme we get Amanti, io vi so dire, metioned at the start of this review, as a kind of substitute. Its style and content give us some idea of what his operas may have been like. The piece is strophic and based on a basso ostinato; between the fourth and the last stanza a section in a free declamatory style is inserted. Filiberto Laurenzi is another opera composer, whose operas have not survived; only some single arias from one of them have been preserved.

In the aria 'Se ad un altro si sposa' from La finta pazza, an opera by the little-known Francesco Sacrati (1641) which Leonardo García Alarcón performed and recorded last year (2022), Diomede says farewell to love altogether: "If the woman I love should marry another, I'll not suffer. (...) There is no living happily for those in servitude". Two pieces by Monteverdi from his Quarto scherzo delle ariose vaghezze are among his most popular works. As this disc is devoted to music written in Venice, Frescobaldi is the odd man out, and therefore his Così mi disprezzate, an aria di passacaglia, is added as a bonus track.

One of the features of the music performed here is contrast: contradictory emotions of single characters, and conflicts between characters. The instrumental music of the time is often not any different. The programme includes two keyboard items. Tarquinio Merula's Sonata cromatica is an original keyboard piece, whereas Giovanni Ceresini's Tornate, o cari baci is a madrigal in concertato style, performed here as an intabulation for keyboard. It is notable how similar in character these pieces are. One may consider Merula's sonata as a madrigal without words.

When Carlo Vistoli bursted onto the scene, I was rather sceptical. I did not particularly like his voice, and I regretted the pretty wide and frequent vibrato. He has developed positively in recent years, and I mostly enjoyed his performances here. There is still some vibrato here and there where it should not be, but his use is much more discriminative. The way he performs the laments is very good and very expressive. He is able to colour his voice nicely according to the content and character of a piece. I am less happy with the two scherzi by Monteverdi, where he takes too much liberty in his ornamentation. I can do without Frescobaldi: here the performers had te bad idea of including percussion. However, this is an aria for performance in domestic surroundings, and percussion is entirely out of place here. Otherwise I have nothing but praise for the way the instrumentalists accompany Vistoli. Filippo Pantieri fully explores the features of the two keyboard items.

Johan van Veen (© 2023)

Relevant links:

Carlo Vistoli
Sezione Aurea

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