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Pirro Capacelli ALBERGATI (1663 - 1735): Corona dei Pregi di Maria

Ensemble La Flora

rec: August 2003, Eremo di Tizzano, Bologna
Tactus - TC 660103 (© 2009) (76'14")

Pirro Capacelli ALBERGATI: Bella Madre d'un Dioaijk [2]; Che non puň forza d'affettoaijk [2]; Dolce, e casta Verginellaaijk [2]; Donna eccelsa ti rimiroaijk [2]; Ecco nato il bel Soleaijk [2]; Nel suo povero Albergoaijk [2]; Tomás Luis DE VICTORIA (1548-1611): Ave Maria, grata plena a 8abcdefghijk [1]; Congratulamini mihi a 6abcefgijk [1]; Gaude Maria virgo a 5abcegijk [1]; Ne timeas Maria a 4aceg [1]; Quam pulchri sunt a 4aceg [1]; Sancta Maria succurre miseris a 4aceg [1]; Senex puerum portabat a 4aceg [1]; Vidi speciosam a 6abcefgijk [1]

(Sources: [1] De Victoria, Motecta, 1572; [2] Albergati, Corona dei Pregi di Maria, op. 13, 1717)

Alida Olivaa, Elena Bertuzzib, soprano; Michel Van Goethemc, Marco Petrollid, alto; Sergio Martellae, Gianluca Zoccatellif, tenor; Andrea Favarig, Paride Montanarih, bass; Matteo Mazzoni, celloi; Stefano Rocco, archlutej; Miranda Aureli, harpsichordk

In the 17th and the early 18th century Bologna was one of Italy's musical centres. Some maestri di cappella of the basilica are still known today: Maurizio Cazzati, Giovanni Paolo Colonna and in particular Giovanni Antonio Perti. The city had a number of musical academies, the most famous of which was the Accademia Filarmonica di Bologna, founded in 1666. A rather unknown master from Bologna was Pirro Capacelli Albergati.

He was from a noble family and was friends with Perti and with Arcangelo Corelli. His social position made it almost impossible to be a musician by profession, as this meant to be in a subordinate position to a prince. But as a dilettante he published fifteen collections of instrumental and vocal works and was highly esteemed in the musical world.

The Ensemble La Flora has recorded one of these collections: Corona dei Pregi di Maria, which is his opus 13 and was published in 1717. It contains six cantatas for solo voice and bc which were composed for devotional use. This means that they are not to be sung as part of the liturgy, but rather at home or in private chapels. In her liner notes Maria Luisa Baldassari refers to the then common concept of miscere utile dulci, 'teaching through pleasure'. Compositions like these cantatas were aiming at 'spiritual recreation'.

The cantatas all follow the form of the secular cantata, which was very common and was also practiced by, for instance, Antonio Vivaldi in his motets. All cantatas consist of a sequence of recitatives and arias, but their order can differ. Mostly they begin with a recitative, which is followed by two arias which are divided by another recitative. But one cantata has five sections: the second aria is followed by another recitative which closes the cantata. And two cantatas begin with an aria; one of them closes with a short recitative whose text is then repeated in a short aria.

The texts of these cantatas are all connected to Marian feasts. That has given the performers the idea to juxtapose them to motets for the respective feasts by Tomás Luis de Victoria. "The combination of cantatas and motets (...) ideally suggests a reconstruction of a conceivable religious spectacle or event in a noble eighteenth-century chapel, where modern and ancient musical styles would have been performed contemporaneously by an ensemble that was perhaps more typical of the eighteenth than the of the sixteenth century", Maria Luisa Baldassari writes in the booklet.

There is no doubt that the stile antico was still held in high esteem in the early 18th century, and some composers even wrote in that style, like Alessandro Scarlatti. So a juxtaposition of cantatas in modern style and motets in ancient style is wholly defensible. But I am not sure whether in Italy in the early decades of the 18th century the music of De Victoria was still known and sung.

What I am very positive about is that the ensemble approaches this repertoire from the perspective of the early 18th century. This means that De Victoria's motets are performed in a baroque manner, with ornaments and some, though moderate, use of dynamics, as well as instrumental accompaniment. Only the four-part motets are performed with voices alone.

The cantatas are quite short: the shortest takes less than six minutes and nevertheless contains two arias, a recitative and a closing recitative and aria. All arias are written in dacapo form, but otherwise there is little repetition of phrases. The tempi are mostly moderate which probably reflects their character, which is about expression in a mostly delicate and intimate way. This is explained in the booklet, which is a feeble compensation for the lack of English translations of the lyrics. As my knowledge of Italian is rather rudimentary I can't say anything substantial about the relationship between text and music.

The performances are pretty good: all cantatas are sung by Alida Oliva who has a nice voice, although now and then with a little sharp edge. She performs the recitatives in an appropriate way, meaning that the rhythm is treated with the necessary freedom. The arias are also beautifully sung, with tasteful ornamentation. Only in one aria I noticed some uncomfortable upward leaps, but otherwise Ms Oliva's singing is technically secure. The instrumentalists give good support, but in various recitatives archlute and harpsichord alternate, for which I don't see any reason.

The motets are well sung, and although the microphones are quite close to the singers there is a good ensemble here. The voices blend well, and the singers succeed in singing the motets in a baroque style, although less so in the four-part motets. In the last motet, the famous 8-part Ave Maria, Alida Oliva adds some small ornaments to her part.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised both by Albergati's music and by the performances. It is just a shame that this music can't be fully appreciated because of a lack of translations of the lyrics. That is something this record company, which often releases such interesting recordings, should work at.

Johan van Veen (© 2010)

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