Notes and Editorial Reviews
Canzona quinta detta Bellerofonte
David Dolata, cond; Gian Paolo Fagotto (ten); Il Furioso (period instruments)
TOCCATA 0081 (76:33
Text and Translation)
There can be no doubt that Bellerofonte Castaldi (1580-1649) was one of the most colorful and well-liked figures of his age, even though he is hardly a household name today. The back cover of this disc claims that he was
“the Bob Dylan of his day,” meaning that he had a popular accessible musical style and wrote his own lyrics. That is as may be, but there can be no doubt that he was an eccentric character. He was named after a mythological figure, primarily because his father grew tired of misaddressed mail, and since he was from a rather well-off family he hardly had to suffer economic difficulties during his lifetime. This allowed him to dabble in virtually all artistic fields, and he purposely sought out both poets and musicians of his time, entering into extensive correspondence. Claudio Monteverdi, Ottavio Rinuccini, Gianbattista Marino, Girolamo Frescobaldi, Orazio Vecchi, and Giovanni Kapsberger were counted among his personal friends, and he spent time in various cities throughout Italy outside his hometown of Modena. This included a
in Venice, where he finally retired at the age of 63 in 1643. He was convivial and self-deprecating, at one point shortly before his death lamenting that he could not go on vacation to the Alps because “a belly full of lasagna had made him so enormously fat,” according to the excellent booklet notes by David Dolata. In short, he was probably a person anyone would love to meet, though he was not without his demons; it would seem that he was co-conspirator in the murder of the scion of the powerful Pepoli family. This and other “infractions” made him have a close acquaintance with the insides of a prison more than once.
As a lute player, Castaldi composed mainly for his instruments, the theorbo and tiorbino, the latter a smaller version of the former and pitched higher. The tiorbino in particular is an instrument that never really was much in fashion, and Castaldi seems to have been the principal composer for it (though of course it had uses as part of the continuo group). It is therefore not surprising to note that his duets, which he himself apparently described as “tobacco and wine,” have been recorded previously. Back in 1998 a selection, including several vocal works, was done on Alpha by Le Poem Harmonique, while Diana Pelagatti released a disc of his lute capriccios on Tactus three years later. The
are also available on Bella Music with Giovanni Cantarini and Il Vero Modo from 2007 following yet another disc of the capriccios by the Lautten Compagney on New Classical Adventure the previous year. This would indicate that there is a fair amount of Castaldi out there, so he is not exactly unknown to discography, but this program brings another perspective, with 10 songs from the
of 1623 and several works from his instrumental capriccios. Finally, Il Furioso has chosen to include the peripatetic
Canzona quinta detta Bellerofonte
by Frescobaldi, a piece for harpsichord that possibly reflects their friendship and collaboration. Of these, only two seem to have been recorded previously.
In terms of musical style Castaldi is very much aware of the more lyrical Roman style that was developing, even as the newer monodic style was running its course. He has a lovely sense of rhythm that emphasizes the linguistic flow. For example, “O Clorinda” is a lyrical duet in parallel thirds, with the odd insertion of dissonance whenever a momentary discussion of the fading of youth appears. In the lengthy two-part “Echo” Madrigal, the voice is pure monody, with a fading background echo on the last part of each phrase, and in the second part there is even a second echo that makes it seem positively cavernous. In “Quella altera” a very nice almost syllabic wandering line is like an early baroque rap, with strummed single lute chords that highlight the perpetual motion of the verses. When one actually reads the stanzas about an ice queen, then the lilting line becomes more like a pointed whine, beautifully formulated. The instrumental works are exquisitely detailed, with the final piece, the battle duet between the theorbo and tiorbino, nothing less than a sort of baroque dueling banjos, replete with marching rhythms, echo effects, and virtuoso moments.
Dolata’s group, Il Furioso, performs this disc with skill and sensitivity. Sopranos Laura Fabris, Janet Youngdahl, and Eugenia Corrieri are all spot on in terms of pitch and blend well, while Gian Paolo Fagotto provides a powerful and secure foil in his pieces. The accompaniment of Victor Coelho and Dolata can be nicely subdued, giving the vocal numbers a troubadour quality, but in their solos they truly shine. For those interested in an alternative world to Monteverdi or the beginnings of the Venetian style, this is an indispensable disc.
FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
Works on This Recording
Battaglia d'amore by Bellerofonte Castaldi
Gian Paolo Fagotto (Tenor),
Eugenia Corrieri (Soprano),
Janet Youngdahl (Soprano),
David Dolata (Theorbo),
Claudio Zinutti (Tenor),
Victor Coelho (Archlute),
Laura Fabris (Soprano),
Neil Cockburn (Harpsichord)
Period: 17th Century
Written: Modena 1622; Italy
Date of Recording: 05/02/2009
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