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"Affetti Barocchi - Arias & laments in 17th Century Italy"

Gabriella Di Laccio, soprano
Capela Strumentale
Dir: Fernando Cordella

rec: Sept 5 - 9, 2016, Porto Alegre (Bra), Memoriala Bárbara Maix
Drama Musica - DRAMA006 (© 2018) (48'47")
Liner-notes: E; lyrics - translations: E
Cover, track-list & booklet

Giulio CACCINI (1551-1618): Odi Euterpe [1]; Benedetto FERRARI (c1603-1681): Amanti, io vi so dire (ciaccona) [6]; Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643): Cosě mi disprezzate (Aria di Passacaglia) [3]; Se l'aura spira [3]; Tarquinio MERULA (c1594-1665): Folle č ben che si crede [7]; Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643): Ohimč ch'io cado (SV 316) [2]; Quel sguardo sdegnosetto (SV 247) [4]; Si dolce č il tormento (SV 332) [2]; Giovanni Felice SANCES (1600-1679): Usurpator tiranno [5]; Barbara STROZZI (1619-1677): Che si puň fare [9]; L'Amante secreto [8]

Sources: [1] Giulio Caccini, Le nuove musiche, 1601; [2] Claudio Monteverdi, Quarto scherzo delle ariose vaghezze, 1624; [3] Girolamo Frescobaldi, Arie musicali, 1630; [4] Claudio Monteverdi, Scherzi musicali, 1632; [5] Giovanni Felice Sances, Cantade, libro secondo, 1633; [6] Benedetto Ferrari, Musiche varie a voce sola, Libro terzo, 1637; [7] Tarquinio Merula, Curtio precipitato et altri capricci, 1638; Barbara Strozzi, [8] Cantate, op. 2, 1651; [9] Arie, op. 8, 1664

Márcio Cecconello, Giovani dos Santos, violin; Diego Schuck Biasibetti, viola da gamba, cello; Guilherme de Camargo, theorbo, guitar; Fernando Cordella, harpsichord

If you want to know exactly what the 'new style' which developed around 1600 in Italy is about, and how it was born and developed, you should read the booklet to the present disc. Its features are summed up very well in the notes by Timothy Roberts and Gabriella Di Laccio respectively. Their essays are then eloquently illustrated by a programme of pieces by some of the main representatives of that new style.

However, the way the programme has been put together is rather disappointing. It is not that there is a lack of quality - on the contrary. The reason of my disappointment is that all these pieces have been recorded a number of times before. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that a good number of them are a kind of evergreens in the repertoire at stake. Frescobaldi's Se l'aura spira is by far his best-known song, and pieces like Monteverdi's Si dolce é il tormento and Ohimč ch'io cado figure in many recitals of singers of baroque music. I would have liked to hear some less familiar stuff. Selecting such pieces would have been no problem at all, considering the size of the repertoire written in Italy in the first half of the 17th century, a large part of which still waits to be discovered.

At least there is some variety in the character of the various songs. Some are through-composed which offers the performer optimal freedom, whereas in the strophic songs his liberties are more restricted. Some songs are based on a repeated bass pattern, a so-called basso ostinato, which was a highly popular device at the time.

It is not without a reason that pieces like those included here are frequently performed and recorded. This is exciting stuff, and the principles of the stile nuove inspired composers to illustrate the text and the emotions they aim to express. That comes off rather well here, and there is not a dull moment in the way the selected songs are performed. That said, there are some serious issues here.

First, let me say that the singing and playing is very good. I like Gabriella Di Laccio's voice, and the way she approaches the repertoire, shows that she has seriously studied the music and its features. I applaud that she avoids an incessant vibrato which spoils so many recordings of vocal music of the baroque era. Sometimes, in loud passages, a slight tremolo creeps in, which is regrettable but not really disturbing. However, in two departments Di Laccio is too restrained. There is not enough dynamical differentiation, and she hardly makes use of the messa di voce. In addition, although she adds ornamentation now and then, overall I feel that she is too modest in this aspect of her performances. I also think that she takes too little rhythmic freedom. Overall I find her performances not speech-like enough. These songs need a more declamatory way of singing.

According to the booklet, the aim of the Capela Strumentale is "to recapture the intimacy, passion and energy of music when it was first composed". There is certainly no lack of passion and energy, but I missed the intimacy. The instrumental contributions are often quite theatrical, and that is not needed in these songs which are not intended for performance in the theatre. The emphasis on rhythm, often with plucked instruments like the guitar being used as a kind of percussion instruments, misses the point. The most extreme examples are Frescobaldi's Se l'aura spira and Sances's Usurpator tiranno. I also find the acoustic rather problematic. It is too spacious and lacks the intimacy these songs require.

On a technical note: those who consider a digital download should know that the booklet which accompanies this recording omits the lyrics of the tracks 4 and 5. Moreover, at the end of track 9 and the beginning of track 10 the booklet offers Portuguese rather than English translations of the Italian lyrics. The printed booklet is alright.

To sum up, despite the unmistakable qualities of these performances and the skills of the performers, I am not really satisfied with this disc. There are just a little too many shortcomings. The short playing time is no recommendation either.

Johan van Veen (© 2020)

Relevant links:

Gabriella Di Laccio

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