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Nicola FIORENZA (c1700 - 1764): "Concerti & Sonate"

Dolce & Tempesta
Dir: Stefano Demicheli

rec: Sept 2008, San Marcello (Jesi), Teatro 'Primo Ferrari'
Fuga Libera - FUG549 (© 2008) (66'37")

Concerto for 3 violins and bc in a minor; Concerto for cello, strings and bc in D; Concerto for cello, 2 violins and bc in D; Concerto for recorder, strings and bc in f minor; Sinfonia for recorder, 2 violins and bc in a minor; Sonata for violin and bc in G

Tommaso Rossi, recorder; Nicholas Anthony Robinson [solo], Mauro Lopes Ferreira, violin; Elisa Citterio, violin, viola; Gianni De Rosa, viola; Marco Testori [solo], Marcello Scandelli, cello; Vanni Moretto, double bass; Eduardo Egüez, lute; Stefano Demicheli, harpsichord

Nicola Fiorenza is what is generally called a 'minor figure' in the history of music. His output is relatively small, but interesting, and that may be the reason that this disc is the second which is entirely devoted to his oeuvre. The first was a recording by the ensemble Festa Rustica which was released in 2003 (Gaudeamus CD GAU 331). The nice thing is that there are no duplications.

In the programme notes Andrea Friggi states that the peculiar character of Fiorenza's music probably reflects his peculiar character. 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. He wasn't only volatile, he even used violence. For years the governors had warned him and taken some measures against him, but as he didn't change his attitude they saw no other option than to dismiss him.

It was at the same conservatory that he had received his training as a musician under Giancarlo Cailò and Francesco Barbella, who belonged to the most famous violinists of their time. But otherwise very little is known about his early years as a musician. A number of his concertos are dated between 1726 and 1728, and it is assumed his preserved compositions all date from the period 1727 to 1738. From that time on he seems to have composed nothing.

In total about 30 pieces can be ascribed to Fiorenza. Two of them are chamber cantatas, whereas the remainig compositions are all instrumental. He composed concertos for recorder, violin and cello. This disc contains specimen of the first and the latter, whereas the solo violin is represented by a sonata with basso continuo. The instrumental scoring is various. In the solo concertos the ripieno can consist of two or three violins, with or without viola. In the Concerto in f minor which is recorded here the ripieno comprises two violins, viola and cello, in the Sinfonia in a minor which only differs in name from the concertos the recorder is supported by two violins and bc. The recorder was popular in Naples at the time; a number of composers in Naples wrote recorder concertos. The best-known of them was Alessandro Scarlatti, but one can also think of Francesco Mancini and Francesco Barbella. Some of their concertos were recorded by Gudrun Heyens with Musica antiqua Köln (Archiv 471 729-2).

Fiorenza composed seven concertos for the cello, another popular instrument in Naples. The best-known Neapolitan cello concertos are those of Leonardo Leo. Six of them have been recorded by Anner Bijlsma and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra (ATMA ACD 22126). Fiorenza's concertos show a certain similarity with Leo's, in particular in the lyricism which is dominating in the slow movements. In the fast movements lyric passages are alternated with dramatic and often virtuosic episodes including double stopping and passage work.

The Concerto for three violins and bc in a minor also represents a genre which was frequently explored in Naples. The set 'Musica Napoletana - I Virtuosi del Violino' by the Accademia per Musica (Capriccio 49 546) contains several pieces for this scoring by composers like Avitrano, Barbella and also by Fiorenza.

This disc offers an interesting survey of the various genres Fiorenza has paid attention to, and also gives a good impression of the particular musical language of this intriguing composer. The performances are very good and the character of Fiorenza's compositions is well explored. The soloists do a fine job, and I would like to mention in particular the cellist who deals with impressive ease with the sometimes virtuosic passages in the solo concertos, which were, would you believe, written for amateurs.

The only point of criticism is the dry acoustics. The recorder in particular suffers from this and also from the rather close miking. As a result its sound is sometimes a bit coarse. But all in all this is a very fine disc which can be recommended without reservation.

Johan van Veen (© 2009)

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