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"Un'alma innamorata - A Soul in Love: Cantatas for soprano, violin and bc"

Linda Perillo, soprano a
Dir.: Walter Reiter
rec: Nov 16 - 18, 2000/Feb 5 - 6, 2001, London, St Silas' Church, Kentish Town
Signum - SIGCD033 (59'10")

D Buxtehude: Singet dem Herrn (BuxWV 98) a,b,d,j; S Capricornus: Surrexit pastor bonus a,b,c,j; GF Händel: Un'alma innamorata (HWV 173) a,b,c,e,i; T Merula: Cantate jubilate [1] a,b,g,h,j; D Purcell: Amintas [2] a,b,d,i; GPh Telemann: Gott will Mensch und sterblich werden (TWV 1,694) [3] a,b,c,j; A Vivaldi: Lungi dal vago volto (RV 680) a,b,c,e,i

Walter Reiter, violin b; Cath Sharman, cello c; Jo Levine, viola da gamba d; Lynda Sayce, theorbo e, guitar f; Paula Chateauneuf, chitarrone g; Jan Walters, triple harp h; Timothy Roberts, harpsichord i, organ j

(Sources: [1] Il primo libro de motetti e sonate concertati, op. 6, 1624; [2] Six Cantatas, 1713; [3] Harmonischer Gottesdienst, 1725/26)

The programme on this CD consists of music for voice and violin from the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 17th century, in particular in Italy, the violin was considered the most expressive instrument. Numerous sonatas, capriccios, sinfonias and canzonas were written for the violin. And it was also thought to be able to imitate the human voice (alongside the cornet). Therefore it is no surprise that many composers wrote pieces for solo voice and violin with basso continuo. Voice and violin were treated equally: the violin isn’t merely ‘accompanying’ the voice.
In the 18th century the violin had to compete with other instruments. Telemann is a good example of a composer who paid almost equal attention to all kinds of instruments: his collection Harmonischer Gottesdienst contains cantatas for solo voice with one solo instrument: violin, but also recorder, transverse flute and oboe. And although Vivaldi was a virtuoso violinist, he composed only one cantata for voice and violin, the one recorded here. Composers used the combination of voice and violin to achieve a maximum of expression. Unfortunately that is not what this recording delivers.

Linda Perillo has a nice voice, crisp and clear, without a ‘wobble’. She is at her best in more introverted passages, like the middle section of the sacred concerto by Capricornus.
She clearly tries to express the emotions in the recitatives of the secular cantatas by Vivaldi and Händel, but the range of her possibilities seems too limited. There is a lack of dynamic contrast and her articulation isn’t very clear. The pronunciation of the German texts is anything but perfect and her Italian doesn’t sound very natural to me – as far as I, being non-Italian, can tell.

There is a general lack of contrast in the ensemble playing. In Buxtehude’s cantata the contrast between the first line – "Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied" (Sing unto the Lord a new song) – and the second – "denn er macht Wunder" (for he has done marvellous things) – sounds far too harmless.
Walter Reiter's playing isn’t very colourful and is somewhat one-dimensional. Most of the time he plays legato, without a clear distinction between important and less important notes – ‘good’ notes and ‘bad’ notes, as they were called in the 18th century.
There is a general lack of drama in this recording: everything sounds nice and neat, but there is no excitement whatsoever.
The recording technique doesn’t help: the sound is a little flat and the volume is on the low side.

I am afraid one sentence in the booklet illustrates what is missing here. Brian Clark writes that in the cantata by Telemann the two arias are separated by a "somewhat declamatory" recitative, as if that is something very peculiar. But basically all baroque music – vocal or instrumental – is ‘declamatory’. If the musicians had realised this, the result would have been a lot better.

N.B. This review first appeared on MusicWeb

Johan van Veen (© 2003)

Relevant links:

Linda Perillo
Signum Records

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