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Filippo RUGE (1725 - 1767 or later): "Concerto, Sinfonia, Arias and Chamber Music"

Elena Cecchi Fedia, Patrizia Vaccarib, soprano
Flatus Ensemble
Dir: Enrico Casularo

rec: May 2015 & May 2016, Sierre (CH), Hôtel de Ville
Brilliant Classics - 95495 (© 2017) (56'37")
Liner-notes: E/I; no lyrics
Cover, track-list & booklet

Concerto for transverse flute, strings and bc No. 1 in Gc; Duet for two transverse flutes in Dcd; Sinfonia in D 'La tempète suivi du calme'; Son qui per mare ignoto, aria for soprano, strings and bca; Sonata for transverse flute and bc in Gc; Vana di tua bellezza, arietta for two sopranos and two transverse flutesabcd

Enrico Casularoc, Benedetto Ciociolad, transverse flute; Jonathan Nubel, Sandrine Feuer, violin; Luca Sanzò, Roberta Rosato, viola; Matteo Scarpelli, Andrea Lattarulo, cello; Andrea Coen, harpsichord

It is very likely that you have never heard of a composer with the name of Filippo Ruge. That is no surprise: the present disc seems to be the first with music from his pen. He was one of various Italian composers who settled in Paris in the mid-18th century.

Ruge was born in Rome where he was educated as a flautist and was active as a teacher in aristocratic circles. In 1744 he became a member of the Congregation of St Cecilia. It is not known exactly when he started to compose. His first printed edition of his work is a set of six sonatas for transverse flute or violin and basso continuo which came from the press in 1751 in London. New Grove suggests that he may have visited London to oversee the publication of his music, but this is not mentioned in the liner-notes in the booklet to the present disc. There is no doubt that he settled in Paris in 1752 at the latest; in that year he performed as a flute soloist in the prestigious concert series the Concert Spirituel. Here he also organised concert series of his own and may have acted as an orchestral conductor. He also promoted Italian music, for instance through the publication in 1757 of a set of symphonies by six Italian composers, such as Galuppi and Jommelli.

His own oeuvre is not large but shows quite a lot of variety. The programme here includes specimens of the genres to which he contributed. Obviously the transverse flute figures prominently in the pieces selected for this recording. The Concerto in G is one of a set of six flute concertos; it is in three movements. According to New Grove "lyricism (...) prevails over technical display" in his flute works, and this concerto attests to that. The track-list doesn't say from which collection the Sonata in G is taken; 1750 is mentioned as the year of composition. It is in three movements; it opens with a movement called moderato which again indicates its lyrical character. The disc ends with a symphony called La tempète suivie du calme; its Italian title was La nova tempesta. It was published as a separate piece and is a sequel to the fourth symphony from a set of six which was printed as Ruge's Op. 1, called La tempesta. These symphonies were performed at the Concert Spirituel to considerable success. The Op. 1 symphonies and the symphony recorded here are scored for strings with two horns ad libitum. The performance includes the horn parts, but their players are not mentioned in the list of musicians. Stylistically it is comparable with the symphonies of Giovanni Battista Sammartini; there are no influences of the Mannheim school or of Jommelli, for instance in regard to dynamics.

The programme also includes two vocal works. These are quite different in character. Vana di tua bellezza belongs among the chamber music: it is scored for two sopranos and two flutes, without any additional instruments. That means that it is not fundamentally different from the Duet in D for two flutes. In comparison the aria for soprano and strings, Son qui per mare ignoto, is a much more extrovert and virtuosic piece, very much like the opera arias of the time, including cadenzas. It is one of the very few vocal works from Ruge's pen.

It is the part of this disc which is really disappointing. Elena Cecchi Fedi has no problems with the technical requirements of this piece, but the enjoyment is spoiled by her incessant vibrato. However, it is also damaged by a bad recording. There is a kind of echo as if the voice has been doubled; moreover the right and left channels are strongly separated, which is rather unpleasant. This should never have passed the quality check. Fortunately the rest of the disc is much better. I particularly enjoyed the playing of Enrico Casularo. The symphony is performed here with one instrument per part. That is certainly a legitimate option, but I probably would have preferred a larger line-up, in part because the sound of the strings is a bit thin. In the flute sonata the basso continuo is performed by a cello alone; that was a common practice in Italian music of the early 18th century, but is seldom used these days.

All in all this is a disc which is well worth investigation. It is just a shame that one of the items is a bit of a flop, and that the lyrics of the two vocal items are omitted from the booklet.

Johan van Veen (© 2018)

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