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"A Souvenir from London by Luigi Marchese"

Francesca Cassinari, sopranoa
Stile Galante
Dir: Stefano Aresi

rec: April 2021, Heerde (NL), Museum Geelvinck
Glossa - GCD 923531 (© 2022) (81'07")
Liner-notes: E/D/F/JP; lyrics - translations: E
Cover, track-list & booklet
Scores Marchesi

James CERVETTO (1748-1837): Duet in C, op. 5,1b [3]; Kateřina Veronika Anna DUSÍKOVÁ CIANCHETTINI (1769-1833): Sonata for the pianoforte (...) in which is introduced the favourite Portogueze hymn Adeste Fidelese; Anne-Marie KRUMPHOLTZ (1766-1813): A new introduction and a Piemontois air with variationsc; Minuetto by Krumpholtz, the variations by Madame dec; Luigi MARCHESI (1756-1829): Ah, furbicel d'Amore, op. 1,4ad [1]; Auretta grata, op. 2,5ad [2]; Che ciascun per te sospiri, op. 1,2ae [1]; Che fa il mio bene?, op. 2,3ac [2]; Il capriccio, op. 2,6ae [2]; Nice mia, oh Dio, rammenta, op. 1,1ae [1]; Non è ver che l'ira insegni, op. 2,4ae [2]; Se guido il gregge al prato, op. 1,6ac [1]; Se mai di lei t'accendi, op. 2,2ad [2]; Sembianze amabili, op. 1,3ac [1]; Son vicino al ben che adoro, op. 1,5ac [1]; Tu che parli all'idol mio, op. 2,1ae [2]

Sources: Luigi Marchesi, [1] Sei Ariette, with an Accompaniment for the Piano Forte or Harp ... First Set, op. 1, 1788; Luigi Marchesi, [2] Six Ariettes, [op. 2], 1789; [3] James Cervetto, Six Duetts for two violoncellos or a violin and violoncello, op. 5, c1795

Agnieszka Oszańca, Giulia Gillio Gianetta, cellob; Chiara Granata, harpc; Andrea Friggi, square pianod, fortepianoe

Domestic music making has always been a substantial part of music life. A large part of the repertoire which today is performed in public places, was originally intended for performance in more intimate surroundings. In the renaissance and baroque periods those were mostly the palaces and homes of royalty and aristocracy. In the course of the 18th century, domestic music making was extending to the salons and homes of the bourgeoisie. There music was played either by professional players on invitation, or by amateurs, often the residents themselves. Obviously the latter performed mostly music that was technically not too demanding (although one should not underestimate the skills of some of them). Whereas the music that professionals played is still part of the repertoire of their colleagues of our time, the music that was specifically written for performance by amateurs is often overlooked, although is was often printed, as it was commercially rewarding.

It is interesting to hear what was actually played in the salons of the bourgeoisie, and a recording is the best way to get to know it, as a substantial part of the repertoire may not be suitable for performance in public concerts. A programme like the one recorded by Stefano Aresi and his ensemble Stile Galante, together with the soprano Francesca Cassinari, may not attract a large audience if it was announced by a concert hall or organization. How many people may have ever heard of Luigi Marchesi, the main figure in the programme?

He was quite a celebrity in his own time, not as a composer but as one of the greatest castratos. He was born in Milan, which played a central role in his life, but he also performed elsewhere in Italy and far beyond its borders. He participated in performances of operas by some of the greatest composers of his time, such as Myslivecek, Jommelli, Martín y Soler and Sarti. Charles Burney wrote about him that he was "not only elegant and refined to an uncommon degree, but often grand and full of dignity". The author Pietro Verri stated: "His voice is most beautiful, sonorous, the same in every part of his range ... his intonation is faultless and he controls his voice as one would a violin. It can produce a clear trill rising up six or seven tones in succession without interruption. ... He supports his voice and it fills the theatre ... is passionate, tender (...)".

The title of the disc under review refers to the few years he spent in London, from 1788 to 1790. There he made his debut in a performance of Giuseppe Sarti's opera Giulio Sabino in April 1788. In July 1790 he returned to Italy. The programme intends to give an impression of his time in London. Its core are the two collections of ariette he published there in 1788 and 1789 respectively. The term arietta - literally 'little air' - is mostly used for a song which has some similarity with opera arias, but is much shorter and simpler. Most ariette by Marchesi are written in ABA form, like many opera arias, but are rather short - only two are over three minutes - and the accompaniment is for a chordal instrument. The latter is here a harp or a pianoforte, the main instruments played in salons at the time.

Ariettas may be mostly technically not too demanding, the ariette by Marchesi undoubtedly give some idea of his own skills. "Unusual, for example, are some sudden descents of the voice in the lower register, and a certain predilection for chromaticism. Some passages in syncopation (cantar contro tempo), small fast note groups not strictly connected to the musical or expressive context, and the presence of the so-called Bomba di Marchesi ('Marchesi's rocket', a sudden ascending scale) in the aria Sembianze amabili, are quite characteristic too, as it is the virtuoso nonsense writing of Il più vago fiorellino (Il capriccio)", Stefano Aresi writes in the liner-notes.

The other pieces in the programme attest to the popularity of the two above-mentioned instruments. We get two pieces for harp, written by Anne-Marie Krumpholtz, pupil and later wife of the harpist Jean-Baptiste Krumpholz. That is to say, in 1788 she became involved in an affair with the pianist Jan Ladislav Dussek, and eloped to London. That justifies the inclusion of two of her compositions in this programme. One of them is a series of variations, the other includes variations. That is not surprising: variations on a theme - often well-known tunes - were among the most popular genres of domestic repertoire.

Jan Ladislav Dussek, mentioned above, had a sister who also played the keyboard: Kateřina Veronika Anna Dusíková who went to London in 1795 and married the music dealer and publisher Francesco Cianchinetti. When she settled in London, Marchesi had already left the city. However, his ariette were sung well after his departure, and that justifies the inclusion of a sonata for the pianoforte by Dusíková Cianchinetti. A large part of her output consists of variations, and this sonata is no exception: the second movement (andante) is a series of variations on the Christmas hymn Adeste fideles (known in the English-speaking world as O come all ye faithful).

Lastly, James Cervetto: he is an example of a professional player, who may have played in the salons in London. He also participated in public concerts alongside Marchesi. He was the son of Giacobbe Basevi Cervetto, who had settled in London in 1738 and played a role in the dissemination of the cello in England. Whereas Charles Burney found the father's tone "raw, crude and uninteresting", he was full of praise for James: "Arrived at manhood, his tone and expression were equal to those of the best tenor voices." The six duets Op. 5, from which here the first is played, are scored for two cellos or cello and violin. These pieces are clearly intended for professional performers.

This disc offers a very interesting picture of musical life, largely outside the limelights, in London in the late 1700s - the time that Haydn also made his appearances there. He arrived for his first visit at New Year's Day 1791, about half a year after Marchese had left the city for Italy. Even so, one gets a pretty good idea of the circumstances which Haydn encountered and in which he would scored triumphs.

Most of the music on this disc may never be performed in public concerts in our time, and it was not meant for such occasions. That does not mean that it is of mediocre quality. That does not only go for the duet by James Cervetto; the other pieces, including the ariettas by Marchesi, are well worth listening to. In order to convince an audience in our time, who may listen to this music under different circumstances, it is of the greatest importance that the performers don't try to do too much, to make them more important. Fortunately, the interpreters on this disc are doing everything just right. "The vocal lines have been adorned with the graces (manieren) considered essential for a good singer's performance at the time of Marchesi: cercar della nota, trills and shakes, vibrato, appoggiaturas (single and double), portamentos (ascending and descending)", all based on historical sources. The use of historical instruments (harp, fortepiano) - rather than copies - is a bonus; the performers were right in accepting the idiosyncracies of such instruments rather than 'correct' them. It brings the listener as closely as possible to a late 18th-century salon in London.

The performances leave nothing to be desired. The ariettas are charming pieces, and Francesca Cassinari treats them as such. It is impressive how she uses the vocal techniques of the time as described above to make them shine. Chiara Granata and Stefano Aresi are excellent players of their respective instruments, and Agnieszka Oszańca and Giulia Gillio Gianetta deliver an outstanding performance of Cervetto's duet.

The interesting liner-notes by Aresi round off this production which is a fine acquisition to each CD collection.

Johan van Veen (© 2024)

Relevant links:

Weser-Renaissance Bremen

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