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"Cantate Napoletane del '700"

Pino de Vittorio, tenora; Tommaso Rossi, transverse fluteb; Alessandro Ciccolini, violinc; Ugo Di Giovanni, archluted
Cappella della Pietą dei Turchini
Dir: Antonio Florio
rec: Dec 2008, Naples, Chiesa Santa Caterina de Siena
Eloquentia - EL 0919 (© 2009) (72'28")

Nicola FIORENZA (c1700-1764): Sinfonia a violino principale; Niccolo' GRILLO (fl 18th C): Sosutose 'no juorno, cantata in lingua napoletanaa; Visciole de 'sto core, cantata in lingua napoletanaa; Leonardo LEO (1694-1744): Concerto for transverse flute, strings and bc in Gb; Siciliana for solo voice, two violins and bca; Giuseppe DE MAJO (1697-1771): [Lo finto laccheo] Gia' che 'sto bello sole; Lo villano che 'na chianca; Quanno lo pesce č bivo; Se crede sta' securaa; Nicola UGOLINO (fl c1700): Concerto a solo leuto e violini in B flatd

Alessandro Ciccolini, Patrizio Focardi, Nicolas Robinson, Marco Piantoni, Nunzia Sorrentino, Massimo Percivaldi, violin; Rosario De Meglio, violin, viola; Rebeca Ferri, Eva Sola, cello; Giorgio Sanvito, double bass; Andrea Perugi, harpsichord

This disc brings music written in Naples in the first half of the 18th century. The city was in particular famous for its comic operas, many of them sung in the Neapolitan dialect. These kind of works were so popular that arias from them were sung during concerts in the homes of private persons. A number of these have been preserved in collections whereas the operas they come from have often disappeared. In fact a large part of Neapolitan musical comedies from the first half of the 18th century has gone lost. It is only through collections with arias that their existence can be established.

The core of this disc are four arias by Giuseppe de Majo. He was born in Naples and studied at the Conservatorio S Maria della Pietą dei Turchini, at the same time as Leonardo Leo, whom he succeeded as maestro de cappella of the royal court. Since then he composed almost exclusively sacred music, but in his earlier years he wrote mostly operas. The four arias are part of his opera Lo finto laccheo, and this could only be established by analyzing the various libretti De Majo has used, as the collection gives a different title. From this one may conclude that this opera is also lost, although the worklist in New Grove doesn't say so. The four arias are typical examples of Neapolitan comic operas, and the text is often vividly illustated in the music, which sometimes can be pretty virtuosic.

The other vocal items are cantatas, mostly rather short, containing recitatives and arias. The longest is Se crede sta' secura by Niccolo' Grillo, a composer about whom the liner notes don't give any information and who also isn't mentioned in New Grove. Strictly speaking it is a dialogue, but scored for just one voice. The cantata contains a "verbal stage direction", as it is called in the notes: "Zeza, from her small window, replied". This shows that cantatas like this were close to opera.

It's not all fun, though. The disc also includes a siciliana per voce by Leonardo Leo, whose text says: "Day and night, grieved and exhausted, alas, I do nought but weep. And along each path, with each step, I turn these grieving eyes into a vast ocean". Harmony is one of the tools Leo uses to express this text in music.

Today Leo is mainly known for his sacred music, but he was a fruitful opera composer as well. Also rather well-known are his cello concertos which he very likely has written for his own use, as he was a cellist by profession. Between the vocal items we hear some instrumental works, and one of them is a concerto by Leo, for the transverse flute this time. It is written in the Vivaldian style of three movements, fast - slow - fast. The largo is an especially expressive episode in this concerto.

Nicola Ugolini is another unknown master about whom the programme notes keep silent. His concerto for lute is written in four movements. Nicola Fiorenza is a bit better known, although not necessarily for the right reasons. From 1743 to 1762 he taught the violin, cello and double bass at the conservatory of S. Maria del Loreto in Naples. In 1762 he was dismissed from his position, because he maltreated his students. His Sinfonia a violino principale is in fact a concerto for violin solo, which has four movements, two of which end with an extended cadenza.

The instrumental pieces are very well played, with excellent contributions of the soloists. Pino de Vittorio is a seasoned interpreter of Neapolitan music, but he is also an actor, and that comes in very handy in the opera arias and cantatas. He delivers very expressive and theatrical performances of the vocal works and this way he is able to give a good impression of what the Neapolitan comic opera was like.

Johan van Veen (© 2008)

Relevant links:

Centro di Musica Antica Pieta de' Turchini

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