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Jerónimo Francisco DE LIMA (1741 - 1822): "Rabbia, furor, dispetto - Sinfonie ed Arie"

Monika Mauch, sopranoa
Concentus Peninsulae
Dir: Vasco Negreiros

rec: Dec 2013, Lisbon, Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestão
Paraty - 715134 (© 2015) (58'10")
Liner-notes: E/F/Por; lyrics - translations: E/F/Por
Cover, track-list & booklet

Enea in Tracia (1772) (overture); La Spirito di Contradizzione (1781) (overture); La Vera Costanza (1785) (overture); Teséo (1783) (overture; O riposo di core - Bella speme, rec acc & ariaa; Rabbia, furor, dispetto - Dal furor, dall'odio, rec acc & ariaa; Medea, que pensi - Dall'a speme, dall'amore, rec acc & ariaa)

In 1787 the English novelist William Beckford stayed in Portugal. Here he attended a performance of the Mattutino de' Morti by Davide Perez as part of the annual feast of the Saint Caecilia Confraternity in Lisbon. During his stay Jerónimo Francisco de Lima was his private musician. "[His] music is favourably mentioned by Beckford, who, however, was not pleased with the £200 bill that Lima presented on his departure", according to Manuel Carlos de Brito in New Grove.

Lima was for most of his life at the service of the court but it is not quite clear when he started there. From 1761 to 1767 he studied at the Conservatorio di S Onofrio a Capuana in Naples. In New Grove it is mentioned that when he returned he was appointed organist and mestre at the Seminário da Patriarcal, the music school which was connected to the Royal Chapel. But in the booklet to the present disc we are told that Lima was sent to Naples to study by José I (King Joseph I, who ruled from 1750 until his death in 1777). This indicates that he was already at the service of the court before he went to Naples.

From October 1770 he was one of the three composers - the others were João de Sousa Carvalho and José Joaquim dos Santos - who were responsible for the composition of music for the church. However, only a relatively small number of sacred works have come down to us. This disc focuses on his secular output, more specifically the works for the music theatre. In 1755 Lisbon was hit by an earthquake which destroyed not only the royal palace - with its splendid music library - but also the opera house. Since then operatic performances of a more modest scale took place in the palaces of Queluz or Ajuda. The royal family spent Carnival season in the small village of Salvaterra, about 65 kilometres above the banks of the Tagus, and here they possessed an opera house which was as large as that which once was the pride of Lisbon.

The present disc includes excerpts from four operas. The programme opens with the overture and three recitative and aria pairs from Teséo which received its first performance in 1783 in the palace of Queluz. It is in one act and its subject was one of the most popular at the time. The liner-notes mention that in Lima's lifetime no fewer than 83 operas with Medea as the main character were written across Europe. One of them was by the above-mentioned Davide Perez. Lima made use of a libretto by the court poet Gaetano Martinelli. It was dedicated to the eldest son of Queen Maria I, José, Prince of Brazil who would turn 22 in August of that year. The liner-notes mention that there was a strong similarity between the Prince and the character of Theseus. The extracts are taken from various stages in the opera. The first recitative and aria immediately follow the overture. Here Medea expresses her hope to become happy. The next recitative and aria - from the centre of the work - reflect her anger: "I seek to massacre and long for blood". The third aria is her last in the opera; she feels "contempt and wrath"; "with the death of the ungrateful I will give respite to my pain".

It is notable that winds play a major part in the orchestral scores by Lima, not only here but also in the overtures from the other operas. In the first movement from the overture to Teséo we find some passages in which the oboes are in dialogue with either the bassoon or the two horns. The last aria opens with a solo episode for the horn. The orchestra strongly contributes to the dramatic character of this opera. That not only goes for the arias but also the recitatives which are all accompanied. Here Lima closely follows the text in his instrumental composing.

The rest of the programme is devoted to three opera overtures, all in three movements. Whereas in baroque operas there is little or no connection between the overture and the story of the opera that is different here. The last movement from the overture to Enea in Tracia of 1772 begins with a fanfare for trumpets and horns which refers to the role of the military in the opera. The title of La Spirita di Contradizzione (1781) is also reflected by the overture.

A special case is the overture to La Vera Constanza of 1785, and in particular from the end of the second movement to the end of the overture. "The libretto explains that then the music will be heard amidst the roar of the sea, the bursts of lightning and crashes of thunder". Normally this kind of effects are saved for those moments in an opera when these phenomena manifest themselves as part of the story. In this recording these effects are realized with the help of the macchinista Rosana Orsini Brescia, a researcher of 18th-century Portuguese and Brazilian stage design. "[We] added the sounds of replicas of the machines that were used in the theatres in Lima's time, namely the collection of the company Antiqua Escena, based in Alcalá de Henares (Spain), which specialises in historic scenery". This is very interesting, but such effects are less effective if an overture is performed separately in the concert hall or on disc. I would have preferred these movements to be recorded twice: one version without and one with theatrical effects. I probably don't want to hear these effects every time I listen to this overture.

This seems to be the first recording of music from Lima's pen. I am pleasantly surprised by the quality of his oeuvre. Teséo seems a very good piece, and the overtures are promising as far as the quality of the respective operas is concerned. It seems that there is every reason to perform and record them complete. Hopefully that will happen some day. In the meantime we can enjoy these extracts from his operatic output. I didn't know the Concentus Peninsulae, but hope to hear more from it in the future. It is an excellent ensemble and I am especially impressed by the performances of the wind which play such an important role in the scores. Monica Mauch is best known for her performances of baroque music, in particular the more intimate repertoire of the 17th century. I feared that she didn't have the temperament to sing opera, but I was wrong. She gives a very good account of the role of Medea and the various stages of her mental development come off quite well.

In short, this is a highly interesting acquaintance with a composer who fully deserves our attention.

Johan van Veen (© 2016)

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Monika Mauch

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