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"Guerra amorosa"

Georg Nigl, baritone; Vittorio Ghielmi, viola da gamba; Luca Pianca, lute, guitar

rec: [no date, no place]
Passacaille - 946 (© 2008) (76'14")

William BYRD (1543-1623): Tregian's Ground; Giulio CACCINI (1546-1618): Dolcissimo sospiro [1]; La bella man vi stringo [1]; O che felice giorno [1]; Giuseppe Antonio DONI (?-?): Toccata dell'Arcangeli; Benedetto FERRARI (1597?-1681): Voglio di vita uscir [4]; George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759): Dalla guerra amorosa, cantata (HWV 102a); Rinaldo, opera (HWV 7): Lasacia ch'io pianga; Giovanni LEGRENZI (1626-1690): Il Giustino, opera: E sarą ver - Non m'uccider Gelosia, rec & aria; Pietro Paolo MELLI (1579-?): Gagliarda La Claudiana; Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643): Ecco di dolci raggi [3]; Si dolce č'l tormento [2]; Henry PURCELL (1658-1695): Anacreon's Defeat (Z 423); King Arthur, semi-opera (Z 628): Fairest Isle; The Indian Queen, semi-opera (Z 630): You twice ten hundred Deities; The Mock Marriage, semi-opera (Z 605); The Prophetess, or the History of Dioclesian, semi-opera (Z 627): Let us dance; Luigi ROSSI 1598-1653): Tra pellegrine piante

(Sources: [1] Giulio Caccini, Le Nuove Musiche, 1601; [2] Carlo Milanuzzi, Quarto scherzo delle ariose vaghezze, 1624; [3] Claudio Monteverdi, Scherzi musicali, 1632; [4] Benedetto Ferrari, Musiche e poesie varie, libro terzo, 1641)

This is a rather strange disc. I have seen several recordings by the Belgian label Passacaille in the past, and mostly they gave the right amount of information. But here I have looked for the date and place this recording was made, and have found nothing. The booklet contains a biography of Georg Nigl, but not a word about the other two artists.

As if that isn't enough, the tray tells that the composer of Tregian's Round is Daniel Norcombe, whereas the booklet gives William Byrd as the composer. In the liner notes Norcombe isn't even mentioned. Was a piece by Norcombe originally planned but replaced by Byrd's composition at the last moment?

The booklet gives all the lyrics - only within the German liner notes - but no translations. But surprisingly there is just one exception, Luigi Rossi's Tra pellegrine piante. Here we get a translation, but only in German! This really makes no sense at all.

Fortunately the performances are a lot better than the booklet. Georg Nigl is a former member of the Vienna Boys Choir, and as an adult he is a specialist in early and modern music. He has worked with, for instance, Rinaldo Alessandrini, and participated in performances of Monteverdi's opera Orfeo. This suggests he knows how to deal with the 17th-century Italian repertoire, and can meet its requirements, both technically and stylistically. We are not disappointed in our expectations. His voice has the agility to realise the florid passages in the pieces by Monteverdi, Caccini, Ferrari and Rossi. Some of them also require a considerable range, and Nigl has mostly no problems with that either.

He could have been a bit more generous in his ornamentation and also show more variety, like in Caccini's O che felice giorno. Here he uses the messa di voce, but his dynamic range is too limited. That is also the case in the second stanza of Ferrari's Voglio di vita uscir ("tormento", "solo"). But these are only minor criticisms of what are basically very good performances.

Georg Nigl also shows a considerable theatrical instinct. That is particularly noticeable in the solo cantata by Handel and the pieces from semi-operas by Purcell. But the performances of these songs are a bit marred by his less than immaculate English pronunciation. There are moments where his low register proves to be a little too weak, like in Purcell's 'You twice ten hundred Deities' from The Indian Queen. I also think the performance of 'Fairest isle' is too down-to-earth and here the tempo is too fast.

The two last items of the programme are not really good, and that is very unfortunate. The evergreen 'Lascia ch'io pianga' is really a waste of space and time: I thought the time of transposing such arias was over, and a performance with basso continuo alone isn't really satisfying. Apart from that, Nigl doesn't have the voice for it; its lyrical qualities are less well developed than its theatrical. The last item is really bad: Purcell's song 'Man is for the woman made' is treated like a cabaret song, and Ghielmi and Pianca also feel the need to contribute vocally to Nigl's performance. It's just tasteless, something which may be forgiven if performed as an encore in a concert, but out of place on a disc.

Vittorio Ghielmi and Luca Pianca play the instrumental pieces very well and provide excellent accompaniment to Georg Nigl. Their capabilities on their respective instruments are much more impressive than their vocal skills.

The overall level of the interpretations as well as the fact that the programme includes a number of lesser-known items, like the pieces by Ferrari and Rossi make me recommend this disc. It is just a shame that the production is marred by so much sloppiness.

Johan van Veen (© 2010)

Relevant links:

Georg Nigl
Vittorio Ghielmi & Luca Pianca

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