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"Roma 1670"

Ensemble Vocale e Strumentale Il Concerto d'Arianna
Dir: Maria Palumbo

rec: Nov 13 - 15 & Dec 4 - 5, 2006, Celleno, Convento di San Giovanni Battista
Dynamic - CDS 632 (© 2009) (60'28")

anon (Carlo Ambrogio Lonati?): Sonata for violin and bc in a minor (Corelli Anh 35); Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713): Sonata for violin and bc in D (Anh 34); Carlo Ambrogio LONATI (1645-1720): Partite for violin and bc in G Sinfonia a 3 for 2 violins and bc in C; Sinfonia a 3 for 2 violins and bc in a minor; Carlo MANNELLI (1640-1697): Sonata I 'La Foggia' for 2 violins and bc, op. 2,1 [1]; Alessandro STRADELLA (1639-1682): Il Sospetto, prologo; Lasciai di Cipro il soglio, prologo; Reggetemi (Il Capriccio e la Costanza), prologo

(Sources: [1] Carlo Mannelli, Sonate a tre, op. 2, 1682)

Cristiana Arcari, soprano; Roberto Staccioli, tenor; Valerio Losito [solo], Giancarlo Ceccacci, violin; Ludovico Takeshi Minasi, cello; Renato Criscuolo, cello, bass violin; Roberto Caravella, chitarrone; Maria Palumbo, harpsichord

Arcangelo Corelli was just one of the composers who were active in Rome in the second half of the 17th century. The musical climate in the city was such that it worked like a magnet, attracting musicians from Italy as well as from above the Alps. Only recently the German ensemble Alte Musik Köln devoted a disc to music by composers who worked in Rome around 1700. On their disc three of the composers of the programme by Il Concerto d'Arianna were also represented: Carlo Ambrogio Lonati, Carlo Mannelli and Alessandro Stradella. The latter is present here with vocal pieces, in contrast to the disc of Alte Musik Köln which only performed instrumental compositions.

Carlo Ambrogio Lonati is a highly interesting figure in the musical life of Rome. He was a true virtuoso on the violin, who was born and died in Milan, and started his career in Naples. In Rome he played in the court orchestra of Queen Christina of Sweden, who lived there after her abdication because of her conversion to Catholicism. He received the nickname il gobbo della regina, "the queen's hunchback". Not many compositions by Lonati have come down to us. Among them are a number of sonatas for violin and bc and some trio sonatas. On this disc we hear the Partite in C, which has been preserved as part of a set of four. These have been formerly attributed to Corelli, but there are reasons to believe they are from the pen of Lonati. The Partite is an elaborate violin solo over an ostinato bass.

It is possible that the Sonata in a minor which is presented here as an anonymous composition, has also been written by Lonati. This piece also has been attributed to Corelli, and included in the appendix of the catalogue of his works. It is a quite theatrical piece, more than one expects from Corelli. The programme includes two sinfonias, in fact trio sonatas for two violins and bc, and these are hardly less theatrical, each containing four strongly contrasting movements.

The texture of these sinfonias isn't any different from the instrumental accompaniment in the vocal items on this disc. They were composed by Alessandro Stradella, a close friend of Lonati. He was also closely associated to Queen Christina. She founded the Tordinona theatre, the first public theatre in Rome which opened in 1671. It was mostly Venetian repertoire which was performed, but Alessandro Stradella was asked to compose new music: prologues and intermedi. Three of such prologues are performed here. Reggetemi or Il Capriccio e la Costanza was written as a prologue for the drama 'Non č padre essendo re' by Carlo Celano, a playwright from Naples. Il Sospetto was probably composed as a prologue for the opera Gli equivoci del sembiante by Alessandro Scarlatti, and Lasciai di Cipro il soglio probably for La prosperitŕ di Elio Seiano by Antonio Sartorio. These prologues are rather short, and consist of a sequence of recitatives and arias. Il Sospetto is the shortest, with just one recitative and one aria. Reggetemi is obviously a dialogue, in which the soprano takes the role of Costanza (constancy) and the tenor sings the role of Capriccio (whim). This piece also contains one duet.

Returning to instrumental music: Carlo Mannelli was a castrato and violinist, nicknamed Carlo del violino. He played in the best ensembles of the city, and was appointed as professore del violino of the Congregazione di Santa Cecilia in 1663. His instrumental music - most of which is probably lost - is technically demanding. The opus 2 contains 12 sonatas which all have names. These refer to musicians active in his time. The disc by Alte Musik Köln contains two sonatas from that set, and it is fortunate that Il Concerto d'Arianna has selected a third. La Foggia refers to Francesco Foggia (1604-1688), another composer who lived and worked in Rome. Lastly a piece by Corelli, whose music is frequently recorded. This sonata is an early work and is included in the appendix of the catalogue of his works. It is a sonata in six movements.

This disc is an example of intelligent and creative programming. It centres around two composers who were closely connected - Lonati and Stradella - and it also links instrumental and vocal music together as the sinfonias and the instrumental parts of the vocal items have the same texture. Without exception the pieces on this disc are of a high calibre, and mostly of a quite theatrical nature.

The two vocal soloists give fine performances, with speechlike readings of the recitatives. In the duet the soprano and the tenor blend well. Nothing can be said about the connection between text and music, and how the singers treat those texts, as the booklet includes the lyrics but without an English translation. The playing of the ensemble is excellent, and Valerio Losito shines in the pieces for solo violin. I am less impressed by the acoustics: there is just a bit too much reverberation which is in particular problematic in the solo sonatas.

Johan van Veen (© 2010)

Relevant links:

Il Concerto d'Arianna

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