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"Felice un tempo"

Paper Kite

rec: Jan 10 - 13, 2016, Honrath, Evangelische Kirche
Coviello Classics - COV 91719 (© 2017) (61'18")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: E/D
Cover & track-list

Giovanni BONONCINI (1670-1747): Barbara ninfa ingrata [2]; Sonata No. 3 in D [3]; Giovanni LEGRENZI (1626-1690): Cinzia, dolente e mesto; Sonata in g minor, op. 8,6 'La Bevilacque [1]'; Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757): O qual meco Nice cangiata

Sources: [1] Giovanni Legrenzi, Sonate a 2, 3, 5, & 6, libro terzo, op. 8, 1663; Giovanni Bononcini, [2] Cantate e duetti, 1721; [3] XII Sonatas for the Chamber, 1732

Marie Heeschen, soprano; Antonio De Sarlo, Rafael Roth, violin; Guillermo Turina, cello; Felix Schönherr, harpsichord

""Felice un tempo": a lover remembering happy bygone days, lamenting over his pain and begging for his beloved" - that is how the liner-notes sum up the theme of this disc. From the large repertoire of chamber cantatas, written between the mid-17th and the late 18th century, the artists have made a quite original choice. Giovanni Legrenzi is almost exclusively known for his instrumental works and although Giovanni Bononcini was one of the main composers of chamber cantatas, in this department he is overshadowed by the likes of Vivaldi and Alessandro Scarlatti. The latter is much better known for his cantatas than his son Domenico, whose many harpsichord sonatas have tended to shut out the rest of his oeuvre.

The three composers also represent three stages in music history. The programme opens with Cinzia, dolente e mesto, a cantata by Legrenzi. This was written before Alessandro Scarlatti cemented the basic form of the chamber cantata: a sequence of two pairs of a recitative and an aria. It opens with an instrumental introduction, which is followed by a recitative turning into an arioso. Next follows a strophic aria in two sections. It is followed by a recitative and arioso, then another recitative - which includes decending chromatic figures - and closes with another aria. Legrenzi doesn't make use of the dacapo structure, which was to become one of the main features of later cantatas. This cantata has been preserved with various attributions. One of the manuscripts mentions Legrenzi as the composer, but his authorship cannot be established with certainty.

Govanni Bononcini spent part of his career in England, where he was active as a composer of operas. Barbara ninfa ingrata is taken from a collection of cantatas and duets which he published in London in 1721. This cantata opens with an instrumental introduction in three movements. The lamenting nature of this piece is especially prepared for in the middle movement, with the indication largo. Bononcini follows the model of Scarlatti's cantatas: two secco recitatives, each followed by a dacapo aria. The second aria is the most dramatic; that comes well off here, but could have been sung with a bit more temperament. As is so often the case, the characters are from the imaginary world of Arcadia, here Tirsi and Clori.

Domenico Scarlatti composed a large number of chamber cantatas, but they are seldom performed and recorded. The same goes for other parts of his oeuvre, which are overshadowed by his keyboard sonatas. However, the boldness of his musical language manifests itself in many of his other works as well. Notable in the cantata O qual meco Nice cangiata is his use of harmony for expressive reasons. That comes to the fore in both the recitatives and the arias; especially in the first aria the text is depicted with eloquent harmonic progressions. Like the other two cantatas, this one also opens with an instrumental introduction, in three movements: allegrissimo, cantabile andante and a short allegro.

The instrumentalists of Paper Kite play two trio sonatas. La Bevilacque is one of Legrenzi's better-known instrumental works. It is taken from a collection of sixteen sonatas, which Legrenzi published as his op. 8 in 1663. That is some decades before Corelli composed and published his trio sonatas. Legrenzi's sonata is not formally divided into separate movements; it is rather a sequence of contrasting sections. The opening section, in a fast tempo, is followed by a section in various tempi. Bononcini's Sonata in D is different. It is part of a set of twelve trio sonatas which were printed in London in 1732. It is in five movements; the first is divided into two sections and the third (vivace) is repeated at the end.

Paper Kite is a young ensemble, which performed in the fringe of the early music festivals in Bruges and Utrecht and made its debut at the Halle Handel festival in 2017. This disc is their debut, and it is a very good one. They deserve much praise for their selection of pieces, which avoids the obvious. Marie Heeschen is a very fine singer; she has a nice voice, which is perfectly suited to this kind of repertoire. I noted with satisfaction the way she treats the recitatives: in a truly speech-like manner, with great attention to the text. There are also appropriate dynamic accents in the arias. The ornamentation is just right; only in one or two instances she goes beyond the range of her part, which is debatable. The instrumentalists deliver colourful performances of the two sonatas and of the string parts in the cantatas.

Paper Kite is an ensemble to keep an eye on. I am looking forward to next projects by these artists.

Johan van Veen (© 2018)

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