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Francesco PROVENZALE (1624 - 1704): "Amati orrori - Lamenti & Cantatas"

Echo du Danube
Dir: Christian Zincke

rec: April 18 - 21, 2013, Munich-Sendling, Himmelfahrtskirche
CPO - 777 834-2 ( 2015) (60'26")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: E/D
Cover, track-list & booklet

Andrea FALCONIERI (?1585-1656) Battalla de Baraboso yerno de Satanas [2]; Francesco PROVENZALE: Care selve, amati orrori; Lamento di marinetta Moglie di Massaniello; Squarciato appena havea; Gregorio STROZZI (1615-1687): Balletto primo [3]; Corrente Settima, e per Organetti, Flauti [3]; Mascara Sonata, e ballata da pi Cavalieri Napolitani, nel Regio Palazzo [3]; Toccata de Passacagli, e ciascheduno pu sonarsi solo [3]; Antonio VALENTE (c1520-1580): Gagliarda Napolitana [1]

Sources: [1] Antonio Valente, Intavolatura de cimbalo ... libro primo, 1576; [2] Andrea Falconieri, Il primo libro di canzone, sinfonie, fantasie, capricci, brandi, correnti, gagliarde, alemane, volte, 1650; [3] Gregorio Strozzi, Capricci da sonare cembali, et organi, op.4, 1687

Hannah Morrison, soprano; Elisabeth Seitz, salterio; Martin Jopp, Elisabeth Wiesbauer, violin; Christian Zincke, viola da gamba; Reinhild Waldek, harp; Thomas Boysen, lute, guitar; Anne Marie Dragosits, harpsichord; Michele Claude, percussion

Neapolitan music of the 17th and 18th centuries does well on disc. Over the years quite a number of CDs with repertoire written or performed in Naples have crossed my path. The present disc sheds light on a little-known aspect of Neapolitan musical life of the 17th century. The liner-notes are written by Dinko Fabris, an Italian musicologist who in 2007 published a book on Francesco Provenzale and the Neapolitan music of the 17th century. Provenzale is the key figure in the programme; the three pieces from his pen - two of them are only attributed to him - are very different in style. This reflects the variety in the repertoire of the 17th century.

From 1504 to 1707 Naples was ruled by Spain. Across Europe royal courts were important musical centres, and that wasn't any different in Naples. During the 17th century many masquerades and balls were organised at the court of the Spanish viceroy. In 1620 the first Festa a Ballo took place in the new palace. It was called Delizie di Posillipo, boscarecce e marittime and all the musical compositions performed during the festivities are known thanks to a printed edition. The feast of 1630 is known only through the libretto, without any music. However, these two sources deliver a good picture of what these festivities were about.

The latter feast included a "masquerade danced with torches by forty-eight riders divided into two factions." This title also appears in a collection of instrumental music which Gregorio Strozzi published in 1687 as his op. 4. This provides the reason for including music from this source in the programme. Among them is the Toccata de Passacagli which includes quite some chromaticism and daring harmonic progressions. This kind of writing was out of date at the time it was published; it carries us back to the first half of the 17th century when composers experimented with harmony. Fabris states that the Mascara Sonata must have been played at the festivities of 1630. However, that year Strozzi was only 15 years of age. It is not impossible: some composers started their career very early but festivities of this kind may also have taken place in later years. In some of the dances Strozzi adheres to a tradition which goes back to the late 16th century.

The festivities in Naples were also connected to political events. One case is especially notable. In 1647/48 an anti-Spanish revolt took place, under the leadership of Masaniello, a fisherman. This episode "posed a threat to Iberian rule in Southern Italy for the first time in a century, and after the rebels had been vanquished, the viceroy, the Count of Oate, patiently endeavored to make peace with the people of Naples prior to carrying out the inevitable bloody repression." He tried to consolidate Spain's positive image by organising a cycle of festivities which included the introduction of opera. Musicians from the royal chapel took part in the festivities, among them Andrea Falconieri, a professional theorbo player. His first book of canzonas, published in 1650, comprises instrumental music which may have been performed during these festivities. From this collection the Battalla de Baraboso yerno de Satanas is taken.

The first operas to be performed in Naples were revivals of pieces by Monteverdi and Cavalli. These were partly adapted to Neapolitan taste, introducing characters who sang in southern Italian idioms. One of the arrangers was Francesco Provenzale who would develop into one of the main composers of Naples. It is mostly his sacred music which is performed and recorded. This disc includes three secular works.

The Lamento di marinetta Moglie di Massaniello has come down to us without the name of the composer but it can probably be attributed to Provenzale. It refers directly to the revolt and its leader, and it is interesting to note that Provenzale was forced to flee during the revolt and found refuge in Rome. This suggests that he may have been a supporter of the revolt. Apparently it didn't prevent him from playing a major role in Neapolitan musical life later on. The Lamento is written in the monodic style which was introduced in the early years of the 17th century by Giulio Caccini and Jacopo Peri and was still alive in the mid-17th century as we also know from pieces by Luigi Rossi and Barbara Strozzi. The lamento was a popular form at the time: one of the most famous is Rossi's Lamento de la Regina di Suezia (The lament of the Queen of Sweden). Squarciato appena havea is a scena which parodies this lamento. Provenzale - assuming that he is the composer which is not established - doesn't use Rossi's text but follows the story, and when someone is quoted he uses a popular tarantella in which the singer is accompanied by a guitar. It is not quite clear why he made it, but it is a rather odd piece.

Care selve, amati orrori is a very different work: a chamber cantata not unlike the cantatas from the pen of Alessandro Scarlatti who arrived in Naples in 1683 and was a protg of the Viceroy. This work seems to have been written under Scarlatti's influence - or did Provenzale influence Scarlatti? - and comprises two dacapo arias embracing a recitative. However, the opening aria has a remarkable texture: ABACA. The first section is an aria, the second a recitative and the third an aria again, with a different text. This piece must have been written at a much later time than the two previous pieces, assuming those are indeed from Provenzale's pen.

This is a most interesting disc which not only sheds light on a part of Neapolitan musical life which seems to have been ignored so far but also includes music that has not been recorded before. One of the pieces which has been recorded is Squarciato appena havea, even twice. Both Anne Sofie von Otter and Romina Basso have recorded this piece fairly recently. Von Otter is superior here and delivers the theatrical performance this piece needs. She also effectively explores the contrasts between the 'serious' parts and the parody. Little of that comes off in Hannah Morrison's interpretation. Don't misunderstand me: she is a fine singer, I like her voice and I have admired her in performances of music by Bach but this seems not to be her cup of tea. The declamatory character of the Lamento is also underexposed and the recitatives in the cantata are too strict in time. The latter is the best part of this disc as far as the vocal music is concerned. The playing of the instrumental pieces is outstanding.

As so often in CPO productions the booklet includes various errors. The timings of all the pieces is given as 12:19, the duration of the second piece. The title of Provenzale's cantata includes a typo and the years of birth and death of Falconieri are apparently the same as Valente's. This is very careless.

Johan van Veen ( 2016)

Relevant links:

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