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Leonardo VINCI (1690 - 1730): "Fileno - Soprano Cantatas"

Emanuela Gallia, Francesca Cassinarib, soprano
Stile Galante
Dir: Stefano Aresi

rec: August 2011, Quistro, Chiesa di San Lorenzo Martire
Pan Classics - PC10266 (© 2012) (66'54")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover & track-list

Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725): Filli, tu parti? Oh Dio!b; Leonardo VINCI: Amor, di Citereab; Mesta, oh Dio, tre queste selvead; Mi costa tante lacrimea; Parto. Ma con qual corea; Sonata for recorder and bc in a minorc

Anna Stegmann, recorderc; Claudia Combs, Eva Saladin, violind; Giovanni Valgimigli, violone; Gabriele Palomba, theorbo; Andrea Friggi, harpsichord

The title of this disc doesn't surprise: the vast majority of chamber cantatas in the Italian baroque was scored for soprano. Less common is the name of the composer: it is only fairly recently that his name turns up in recordings. This year (2012) recordings of two of his operas were released: La Rosmira fedele (under the title of Partenope, Dynamic) and Artaserse (Virgin Classics).

It is assumed that Vinci was born in 1696, but there is no firm evidence. In 1708 he entered the Conservatorio dei Poveri di Gesł Cristo in Naples. In 1719 he made his debut in the field of opera with a comedy which found great appreciation. In the next years he wrote several other comedies, all in the Neapolitan dialect. In 1722 his first opera seria was performed, which was again enthusiastically received. From that moment on he turned his attention to this genre. After the death of Alessandro Scarlatti in 1725 he became pro-vice-maestro at the royal court in Naples. For some time he acted as teacher at his old conservatory, where Pergolesi was one of his pupils. During the season 1729/30 he worked as impresario and principal composer at the Teatro delle Dame, collaborating with the librettist Metastasio in the composition of three works. He died in 1730.

In comparison to his operas the number of chamber cantatas in his oeuvre is modest. The work-list in New Grove lists no more than 13 authentic cantatas. In addition there are some which are attributed to Vinci. One of these is Fille, tu parti? which has survived in 15 sources. In only one of these the cantata is attributed to Vinci, the other sources have Alessandro Scarlatti as the composer. It is a beautiful piece in the usual texture of Scarlatti's cantatas: two pairs of recitative and aria. It is a typical Arcadian piece, as are Vinci's cantatas Mi costa tante lacrime and Amor, di Citerea, in which well-known mythological characters such as Cupid and Phyllis appear. In Mi costa tante lacrime two arias embrace a recitative. The last aria is especially passionate, and the words "caro ben" (my dearest) are singled out through long notes and extended coloraturas. Whereas most cantatas about love include complaints about unfaithfulness or departure, Amor, di Citerea is a jubilation about a happy love: "Only to you, oh chaste god [Cupid], do I owe the heart of my beloved". The two arias are different but have both a nice swing.

The opening and closing cantatas are especially interesting. The first, Mesta, oh Dio, tre queste selve, is about an unhappy love. The first aria says: "Woeful, oh god, among these woods I am singing of my torment. Destiny! Cupid! Fileno! Alas, I feel that grief is killing me". This cantata is scored for soprano, two violins and bc. It is the only cantata on this disc with obbligato parts for melody instruments. The most common scoring was for soprano and bc. It is noticeable that no less than five of Vinci's extant cantatas have parts for treble instruments. What is most remarkable, though, is that the recitative in the centre is long - in this recording four minutes - and has the form of a recitativo accompagnato in which the two violins are used to illustrate the text. As a result this recitative has the character of an opera scene. That is further emphasized by the highly dramatic text. The opening aria begins with a long note on "mesta" followed by a general pause, one of several in the aria. This cantata was written for a then famous opera singer, Vittoria Tesi.

The last cantata was also written for a singer. Parto. Ma con qual core had the addition La partenza del Faustina to its title. It was composed at the occasion of the departure from Naples of Faustina Bordoni who was one of the most celebrated opera singers of her time. From 1716 until 1751 she sang in numerous operas by the most prominent composers across Europe, including Handel, Caldara, Gasparini, Leo and Vinci. In 1730 she married the German opera composer Johann Adolf Hasse. The cantata is a moving piece in which the protagonist expresses her sorrow of having to leave the city but also promises to be back. Interestingly she refers to herself as Rosmira in the second recitative. Rosmira is the faithful lover in the libretto Partenope by Silvio Stampiglia. Interestingly Bordoni was to sing the role of Rosmira in the above-mentioned opera La Rosmilda fedele in 1725 in Venice. I couldn't find out whether Bordoni had sung this character in previous settings of this libretto. But as Parthenope had a special meaning to Naples (she was considered the founder of the city) its citizens must have known the story of the libretto and the identification of Bordoni with the faithful lover Rosmira fits with the tenor of the cantata, saying that she may leave but will always be faithful to her love for Naples. It is a rather intimate piece, especially the first aria, which is appropriately accompanied by a theorbo alone.

Emanuela Galli and Francesca Cassinari deliver very fine performances. The former has the more naturally dramatic voice, and she tends to go a little over the top sometimes, for instance in the cadenza in the dacapo of the second aria from Mesta, oh Dio, tra queste selve. She is a versatile singer, though, and the more introverted Parto. Ma con qual core comes off equally well. Francesca Cassarini has a very nice and pleasant voice, a little less theatrical, but her expression is perfect on a somewhat smaller scale. Scarlatti's cantata Fille, tu parti? is beautifully sung, and the joyful Amor, di Citerea is excellent.

Very few instrumental works from Vinci's pen are known. The Sonata in a minor for recorder and bc was discovered recently. It is a piece in five movements, and is close in character to other Neapolitan music for recorder by, for instance, Alessandro Scarlatti and Francesco Mancini. Anna Stegmann delivers a good performance with a beautiful and clear tone, and good articulation.

So far not that many compositions by Vinci are available on disc. The recording of two of his operas recently shows that he is about to be rediscovered. This disc considerably contributes to our knowledge and appreciation of his music.

Johan van Veen (© 2012)

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