Notes and Editorial Reviews
Atene edificata. Coro dei guerrieri
Francesco Quattrocchi, cond; Lindita Hisku (
); Novella Bassano (
); Alessia de Amicis (
); Maria Rosaria de Rossi (sop);
Simone Ponziani (ten);
class="ARIAL12"> Alio Tempore Ens; Schola Cantorum San Sisto
BONGIOVANNI 2428 (75:09
Text and Translation)
I was sent this CD to review by mistake. With all the problems I’ve had reviewing 18th-century composers of late, all I needed was to throw another blowtorch on my already Joan-of-Arc-sized funeral pyre. I was told to review it only if positive.
I was already a fan of Cimarosa from his well-known
Il matrimonio segreto
as well as some other works I’d heard, but considering that this was a cantata, I put the CD on with a bit of trepidation. To say that I was unprepared for what I heard would be an understatement. Yes, this music has some of the usual compositional devices of the 18th century, but Cimarosa’s use of piquant harmonies and melodic lines that sometimes do
go for the notes one expects them to land on made the listening experience delightful. Add to that the fact that he wrote this cantata as if it were an opera, and you’ll have some idea of just how much fun it is.
Consider this: Cimarosa, an excellent composer, could not get a single work staged in his native Naples for three years because Piccinni and Paisiello had the theaters sewn up, proving that intercomposer rivalries and politics aren’t just an invention of modern times. He only got a break when Piccinni moved to Paris and Paisiello to Moscow. He got his break; he became known and admired not only in Italy but also in Austria, where they adored him. So what does he do? Like a
, he moves to Russia, where he discovers (duh, what a surprise) that Paisiello is getting all the plum assignments. Perhaps he had a point to prove, then, when he wrote this cantata in 1788. The story is based on the founding of the city of Athens, but contains clear references to Catherine the Great (you’d better butter up the boss if you want to get another cantata or opera performed). The music is very dramatic, Cimarosa at or near his best, sounding at times like
in overdrive. This is the world premiere recording.
Adding to the fun is the superb conducting of Francesco Quattrocchi, a name completely unknown to me. He not only brings a full arsenal of musical style and sensitivity to this performance, but he also conducts with lightness and humor when called for in addition to wonderful forward momentum. The Schola Cantorum San Sisto is likewise a great chorus.
Soprano Lindita Hisku is excellent, having a pure tone and ability to color the voice, adding and subtracting vibrato like a virtuoso string-player. Her sense of drama is just stunning. On the other hand, soprano Novella Bassano, though having a strong, pure upper range, sounded pallid and slightly flat in her mid and low ranges, but the vibrant sonics were able to mask this some of the time. Our third soprano, Alessia de Amicis, (apparently, either Cimarosa or his intended audiences were allergic to mezzos) has, by contrast, a very bright, vibrant, Italianate timbre, lending a touch of “authentic” twang to the mix. Her performance of the aria “Sento in seno la speranza” will throw your entire idea of what an “authentic 18th-century soprano” should sound like. She comes across as something of a Mafalda Favero or Graziella Sciutti singing Classical-era music. (Her trill is a joke, however.) The small, secondary role of the Oracle is given to her instead of a tenor, as written, because of the music’s technical difficulties.
Coro dei guerrieri,
written in 1790, heralded the end of the current Russian war and the arrival of peace. It has the lift and drive of one of his overtures, but also includes solo vocal lines. The performance is equally excellent, though the tenor is awful.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
Works on This Recording
Atene edificata by Domenico Cimarosa
Sonia De Amicis (Soprano),
Lindita Hisku (Soprano),
Novello Bassano (Soprano)
Alio Tempore Ensemble
Coro dei guerrieri by Domenico Cimarosa
Simone Ponziani (Tenor),
Maria Rosaria De Rossi (Soprano)
Alio Tempore Ensemble
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