musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Dialogues and madrigals of the Italian early baroque

[I] "Dialoghi a voce sola"
Ensemble &cetera
rec: Sept 22 - 26, 2013, Rheinfelden (D), Schlosskirche Beuggen
Raumklang - RK 3306 (© 2014) (71'53")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: E/D
Cover & track-list

Giovanni Pietro BERTI (?-1638): Occhi miei tristi (Dialogo con gl'occhi) [8]; Giacomo CARISSIMI (1605-1674): Ferma, lascia, ch'io parli; Bellerofonte CASTALDI (1580-1649): Sonata forastiera X [6]; Sonata forastiera XII [6]; Benedetto FERRARI (c1603-1681): Voglio di vita uscir [10]; Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643): Vanne, o carta amorosa [9]; Constantijn HUYGENS (1596-1687): A dispetto de' venti [13]; Sigismondo D'INDIA (c1580-c1629): Piangono al pianger mio (Musica sopra il Basso della Romanesca) [1]; Giovanni DE MACQUE (c1548-1614): Partite sopra ruggiero; Ascanio MAYONE (c1565-1627): Toccata I [2]; Domenico MAZZOCCHI (1592-1665): Dunque ove tł, Signor (Compuntione nel veder Gierusalemme, o rammentarsi la morte di Christo) [12]; Tarquinio MERULA (c1594-1665): Quando gli uccelli portaranno i zoccoli (Canzonetta in sdrucciolo) [11]; Johann NAUWACH (c1595-1630): Tu parti Anima mia [7]; Camillo ORLANDI (fl c1616): Deh come in van chiedete [5]; O vaga e bianca Luna [5]; Francesco RASI (1574-1621): Galatea mentre t'amai [3]; Luigi ROSSI (c1597-1653): Passacaille; Spars'il crine (Lamento di Zaida Turca); Barbara STROZZI (1619-1677): Timore e che sarą. Trą le speranze e 'l timore (Dialoghi ą voce sola) [14]; Giovanni Maria TRABACI (c1575-1647): Toccata II & Ligature per l'Arpa [4]

[1] Sigismondo d'India, Le musiche da cantar solo, 1609; [2] Ascanio Mayone, Secondo libro di diversi capricci per sonare, 1609; [3] Francesco Rasi, Musiche da camera e chiesa, 1612 [ms]; [4] Giovanni Maria Trabaci, Il Secondo Libro de Ricercate, e altri varij Capricci, 1615; [5] Camillo Orlandi, Arie a tre, due e voce sola, 1616; [6] Bellerofonte Castaldi, Capricci a due Stromenti cioe Tiorba e tiorbino, 1622; [7] Johann Nauwach, Libro primo di arie passegiate, 1623; [8] Giovanni Pietro Berti, Cantade et arie, libro primo, 1624; [9] Girolamo Frescobaldi, Secondo Libro d'arie musicali, 1630; [10] Benedetto Ferrari, Musiche varie a voce sola, libro secondo, 1637; [11] Tarquinio Merula, Curtio precipitato, Libro secondo, 1638; [12] Domenico Mazzocchi, Musiche Sacre, E Morali, 1640; [13] Constantijn Huygens, Pathodia sacra, et profana, 1647; [14] Barbara Strozzi, Cantate, Ariette, e Duetti, op. 2, 1651

Ulrike Hofbauer, soprano; Brigitte Gasser, discant viola da gamba, lirone; Marie Bournisien, harp; Julian Behr, chitarrone

[II] "Uno + One: Italia Nostra"
rec: Sept 2 - 3, 2012, New York, Trinity Church Wall Street
AVIE - AV2303 (© 2013) (53'19")
Liner-notes: E
Cover & track-list

Bellerofonte CASTALDI (1580-1649): Un bocconcino di fantasiad [3]; Dario CASTELLO (c1590-c1658): Sonata IV [5]; Giovanni Girolamo KAPSBERGER (c1580-1651): Toccata arpeggiata [1]; Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643): Ardo, e scoprir (SV 158) [7] Chiome d'oro (SV 143) [2]; Io son pur vezzosetta pastorella (SV 121) [2]; L'incoronzione di Poppea (SV 308) (Pur ti miro); Ohimč ch'io cado (SV 316)ac [4]; Quel sguardo sdegnosetto (SV 247)b [6]; Soave libertate (SV 130) [2]; Zefiro torna (SV 251) [6]; Martino PESENTI (c1600-c1648): Ardo ma non ardisco; Luigi ROSSI (c1597-1653): Occhi belli

[1] Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger, Libro I d'intavolatura di chitar[r]one, 1604; [2] Claudio Monteverdi, Concerto: settimo libro de madrigali, con altri generi de canti, 1619; [3] Bellerofonte Castaldi, Capricci a due Stromenti cioe Tiorba e tiorbino, 1622; [4] Carlo Milanuzzi, Quarto scherzo delle ariose vaghezze ... con una cantata, & altre arie del Signor Monteverde, e del Sig. Francesco suo figliolo, 1624; [5] Dario Castello, Sonate concertate in stil moderno per sonar nel organo overo spineta con diversi instrumenti ... libro secondo, 1629; Claudio Monteverdi, [6] Scherzi musicali ..., 1632; [7] Madrigali guerrieri, et amorosi ... Libro ottavo, 1638

Jolle Greenleafa, Molly Quinnb, soprano; Robert Mealyc, Daniel Lee, violin; Hank Heijink, theorbo; Daniel Swenberg, tiorbinod, guitar; Avi Stein, harpsichord

It seems that many people are often talking to themselves. They will probably not be surprised to see a title like "Dialogues for a solo voice". It is not just the product of the imagination of the performers. Barbara Strozzi's aria Timore e che sarą has the addition Dialogo ą voce sola. That is not surprising, given the time it was written. Dialogue - or, more generally, communication - is the very foundation of the music in the era we call 'baroque'. It was the task of the composer to depict human emotions in music, and that of the performer to pass on those emotions to an audience. This was one of the main differences between the prima prattica of the 16th century and the seconda prattica of the 17th.

The music performed on the two discs reviewed here dates from the first half of the 17th century, and was largely written in Italy. It is no coincidence that here at the same time opera was born and quickly grew in popularity. It was the most suitable genre to communicate the whole range of human emotions. Vocal music - both sacred and secular - and instrumental compositions of the time show the influence of opera. There is documentary evidence that singers who performed cantatas and arias before an audience made use of gestures like an actor, even though they were not on the stage and there was no scenery. This also explains that in contemporary Italian writings performers are compared with actors and that Italian music is theatrical by nature.

The first disc is the most interesting as far as the repertoire is concerned. It includes pieces by composers who are anything but household names. Giacomo Carissimi is well-known, but mostly as a composer of oratorios. His secular works are not often performed. Ulrike Hofbauer sings the Lamento di Maria Stuarda (Ferma, lascia, ch'io parti) which is a dialogue between Mary, Queen of Scots, and various audiences: a "blasphemous priest", her "dear maidens" and London. The programme opens with Voglio di vita uscir by Benedetto Ferrari, called Ferrari della Tiorba, and one of the founders of opera in Venice. It is a lament at an unhappy love; he is called "cruel one" in the second half. Frescobaldi is one of the most famous composers of the 17th century, but is vocal music is underexposed; only a couple of arias are frequently performed. Vanne, o carta amorosa is a dialogue between the protagonist and a love letter (carta amorosa); the latter is addressed thus: "Ah, my timid letter, endeavour, hope, and pray".

Barbara Strozzi is another famous name; her music receives much attention for various reasons, including the fact that she was one of the few female composers of her time. Timore e che sarą is a Dialogo ą voce sola between Fear and Hope. Occhi miei tristi is a Dialogo con gl'occhi, a dialogue with the eyes: "Alas, my cheerless eyes, what will become of you, now that the lovely sun of your contented days has turned its treasured light from you?" Its composer, Giovanni Pietro Berti, worked as a tenor in San Marco in Venice and acted later as second organist. Two collections of secular vocal works were published; a motet is included in the collection Ghirlanda Sacra, edited by Leonardo Simonetti.

Little is known about Camillo Orlandi; he is only known for being in the service of the Archbishop of Salzburg around 1616. From his pen only one collection of secular arias for one to three voices is known. O vaga e bianca luna is a dialogue between the protagonist on the one hand and the "white and lovely moon" and the "eternal, burning stars" on the other, whereas Deh come in van chiedete is addressed to Sirene: "Ah, in vain do you demand, lovely Siren, to hear my singing." Sigismondo d'India was one of the composers on the brink of prima and seconda prattica whose oeuvre includes a number of books with monodies, but also collections of polyphonic madrigals. Piangono al pianger mio is one of his best-known pieces. It has little of a dialogue, until the last line: "[All] people, moved by my sorrow, ask: What are you doing here, O sad and lonely wretch?"

Francesco Rasi has become famous as a performer in the first place. He was highly appreciated as a tenor - he sang in the first performance of Jacopo Peri's Euridice - and player of the chitarrone. The address of Galatea mentre t'amai is, obviously, Galatea, an Arcadian character which was to feature in many cantatas of the late 17th and the early 18th centuries. Luigi Rossi is known for his opera Orfeo, written for a performance in Paris. However, by far the largest part of his oeuvre comprises canzonettas and cantatas. Spars'il crine is a rather curious piece as the protagonist is the Turkish girl Zaida who curses the Christians and even Mohammed as her beloved Mustafą is taken from her.

The programme includes two pieces by non-Italians. Constantijn Huygens was a Dutch playwright, poet and composer who also played a major role in politics. He had many contacts with composers across Europe. A dispetto de' venti is in two parts: the first is called Serenata, the second Ripostra dalla finestra (response from the window). Here a dialogue between two characters is sung by just one voice. Johann Nauwach started his career as a choirboy at the court in Dresden and studied in Italy from 1612 to 1618. Tu parti Anima mia begins with the phrase: "You are leaving, my soul, Alas, you leave me".

Two pieces stand a little apart from the rest of the programme. Tarquinio Merula's Quando gl'uccelli porteranno i zoccoli is a Canzonetta in sdrucciolo; unfortunately I couldn't find what that means. The text is quite humorous: a lover assures his unnamed beloved that he will only stop thinking of her if "birds wear wooden clogs", "Germans stop drinking beer" and "goats sing music". On the other side of the spectrum we find a piece with a spiritual character. Domenico Mazzocchi was an significant composer of oratorios. Dunque ove tł is about the death of Christ at the cross. Someone speaks to himself, or more precise, to his heart: "[Do] I now, to that bitter memory, not even weep two flowing streams of grievous tears. (...) O heart, (...) [may] you never weep if you do not weep now".

This is a most interesting and enthralling programme, showing the various ways in which emotions could be expressed in music. One of the virtues of this disc is the inclusion of a number of hardly-known pieces and composers. The performances are outstanding. Ulrike Hofbauer has not only the technique for this repertoire, she has also captured its character very well and has the right temperament to make its meaning come across. She deals effectively with the text, adds stylish ornamentation and has a good feeling for the contrasts within single pieces. At first I felt that she was too restrained in Carissimi's Lamento, but then she uses it to create a real climax towards the end when the emotion of Mary runs over. The instrumentalists give excellent support, contributing to the expression of Ms Hofbauer's interpretation. They give fine performances of the instrumental pieces which attest to the influence of vocal music - and especially opera - on instrumental music.

The second disc is less interesting in regard to repertoire. Most of the pieces are by Monteverdi, and all of them are available in various recordings. That is regrettable as the previous disc shows how much there is to choose from. The pieces by Luigi Rossi and Martino Pesenti are the most interesting. Rossi's Occhi belli has been recorded before but Pesenti's Ardo ma non ardisco probably not. He was a blind keyboard player and organist from Venice, and his name hardly ever appears on disc and on concert programmes. This piece suggests that his oeuvre is well worth being explored.

A disc like this could find its place on the market if the performances were remarkable, but that is not the case. They are good, and I certainly have enjoyed the singing of the two sopranos who have fine voices which blend perfectly. They sing stylishly and add a good amount of ornamentation; their performances are also expressive and the more light-hearted pieces come off well too. But I would have liked them using their skills in less common repertoire. The same goes for the instrumental works. Castaldi is still not that well-known, despite some recent recordings devoted to his oeuvre. But from the oeuvre of Castello they have selected the sonata which is most often played. Add to that the short playing time and one will understand that I doubt whether this disc, despite its qualities, will be able to sweep the market.

Johan van Veen (© 2015)

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