Notes and Editorial Reviews
Il più misero amante
Camerata Hermans (period instruments)
LA BOTTEGA DISCANTICA BD140 (55:10
Text and Translation)
BERNABEI, CARISSIMI, LOCATELLI, NARDINI, STRADELLA, VIVALDI
Camerata Hermans is a chamber group that stems from the W. Hermans Baroque Academy and consists of soprano Cristina Paolucci, flautist Fabio Ceccarelli, harpsichordist Fabio Ciofini, and cellist Alessandra Montani. The last two players also appear as guest
artists on the disc
Passion and Craftsmanship,
also reviewed in this issue. The ensemble was formed in 2000 for the purpose of exploring the chamber repertory of the Baroque and Classical periods. As there is a huge amount of this that has not yet been studied, let alone recorded, this is of course an enormous task, particularly since one is faced with the choice either of producing selections of a single composer (or several related ones) or creating thematic programs that cut across the chronological spectrum. The title of this disc is taken from Alessandro Stradella’s cantata, in which an anguished lover Eurillo pours his affected heart out in a missive to his erstwhile sweetheart. This emotional work sits uneasily with the rest of the program, made up of sonatas by Pietro Locatelli and Pietro Nardini. The sonatas are both for flute and represent two very separate styles of writing. Neither are particularly sad (and the only way one can make them so is to botch the performance, which certainly does not happen here).
Ercole Bernabei (1622-1687), hardly a household name even in his time, is rather more didactic, speaking about the constant battle between love and virtue. Vivaldi’s rather knowing admonition about the consequences of love in his
All’ombra de sospetto
does fit musically with Locatelli’s old-fashioned sonata, but to include Nardini in the group is a decided stretch, even if Carlo Sartori did describe him as the “violinist of love.” That particular statement refers to his expressivity, not his personal ability to display emotions.
The result here is an ambitious program that is only barely topical but which does bring to life some interesting and unusual works. The sobs and laments are keenly felt in the Stradella cantata, in which the voice wanders aimlessly above an equally meandering continuo line, forming a flowing duo. We are suspended between dialogue and aria, with smooth transitions that blend rhythmic contrasts with suspended lines. Bernabei’s cantata is reminiscent of late Monteverdi in the dance-like melody, but with some lovely sustained mezza di voces. There are even some anachronistic monadic ornaments at the ends of the lines, which lend a rather nice madrigal touch to the otherwise rather conventional recitative portions. I love the close harmonies of the Carissimi cantata which devolves into a lyrical line that is gentle and refined. Vivaldi’s cantata, on the other hand, is quite conventional, with a pair of arias preceded by short recitatives. The first of these, “Avvezzo non è il core,” has a nice flute accompaniment and sounds for all the world closer to a Bach cantata aria than something Italian. The second, with its motivically developed flute line that often doubles the voice in parallel thirds seems like something from Telemann. There is even an imitation of the staccato in the voice which is a nice touch. Both flute sonatas are quite conventional, and although they serve their purpose to divide the vocal music, nothing really stands out, save for a very nice romp in the final movement of the Nardini sonata.
The performance by the group is quite fine. Paolucci has a clear and articulate soprano that is always on pitch and performs the ornaments with ease. Ceccarelli’s flute playing is expressive and has a great deal of depth. The continuo group is discreet and underpins the soloists with a solid foundation, particularly in the cantatas, where flexibility of tempo is a necessity. In short, this is an excellent disc, and while it may not entirely fulfill the purpose of its title, the works chosen are performed with grace and expressiveness. My only concern is that the texts of the arias do not have translations, so if you are not able to read Italian, you’re out of luck. That notwithstanding, this is a good disc to have in one’s collection of Baroque chamber music.
FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
Works on This Recording
All'ombra di sospetto, RV 678 by Antonio Vivaldi
Written: Venice, Italy
Length: 10 Minutes 43 Secs.
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