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Cristofaro Caresana: L'adoratione De' Maggi

Caresana / Ziani
Release Date: 10/26/2010 
Label:  Glossa   Catalog #: 922601   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Cristoforo CaresanaPietro Andrea Ziani
Performer:  Rosario TotaroGiuseppe De VittorioMaria Grazia SchiavoFilippo Mineccia,   ... 
Conductor:  Antonio Florio
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Turchini
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



CARESANA La veglia. Demonio, angelo e tre pastori. Sembri stella felice, Partenope leggiadra. L’Adoratione de’ maggi. ZIANI Sonata No. 15, op. 7. Sonata No. 17 , op. 7 Antonio Florio, cond; Maria Grazia Schiavo, Valentina Varriale (sop); Filippo Mineccia (ct); Giuseppe de Vittorio, Rosario Totaro (ten); Giuseppe Naviglio (bs); I Turchini GLOSSA 922601 (68:52 Read more Text and Translation)


Venetian by birth, Cristofero Caresana moved in his late teens to Naples, where he spent the rest of life. There he wore several prestigious caps in a city noted for the vibrancy of its musical culture: organist to the royal chapel, teacher at the Conservatorio di San Onofrio, Master of the Treasury to San Gennaro Cathedral after the death of Provenzale, and an active member for almost 50 years of the Congregazione dell’Oratorio. His musical library—nearly 130 autograph manuscripts—was bequeathed to the Congregazione’s archive, where it resides today.


Neapolitan culture of the period being what it was, the wealthy noble, churchly, and guild establishments supplied musical entertainment for a nearly endless series of religious festivals throughout the year. The Sembri stella felice cantata was written in 1703 for just such a purpose, to celebrate Janurius, or San Gennaro, the patron saint of the city. Christmas, of course, came in for some of the most expansive efforts of all, including cantatas written for the students of the various conservatories. The three remaining cantatas on this release were part of a group written between 1670 and 1683 to celebrate the season. La veglia is perhaps most interesting in a literary sense for its unusual metaphor of Christ as a card gambler, who “robs Pluto of thousands of victims,” and “always holds the Ace of Spades to trump his opponent’s defenseless Knave.” L’Adoratione de’ maggi adds Lucifer for dramatic purposes to the usual Magians traveling to see the Christ Child. Finally, in Demonio, angelo e tre pastori , a demon takes the form of a boorish country lad, and an angel that of a shepherd. The dialogue between the pair gets angrily and humorously abusive, while they offer contradictory advice to genuine shepherds who celebrate the birth of Christ. Although certainly not staged in any fourth-wall-removed fashion that moderns would recognize, the vividness of its characterizations and the mix of low commedia del’arte- like comedy with brief moments of eloquence certainly give this cantata the edge over the others in the all important theater of the mind.


As with the libretti, so with the music. Caresana takes great pains to make these short works as dramatically engaging as possible. Lively dances are frequently incorporated into the cantata textures—such as the entrance of the shepherds in Demonio, angelo e tre pastori , who practically skip in while singing to a saltarello rhythm; and the entirety of La veglia . Canons on the first, when they occur, do so briefly and to vary the largely homophonic or solo vocal textures. Recitatives are brief, but dramatically effective, as in respective utterances of Lucifer and the angel in L’Adoratione de’ maggi . Lucifer is also responsible for one of the most fascinating passages in these works, his short aria “All’armi, all’armi,” all sharp rhythms, no theme, and barely moving from its home key of E?-Minor. Strong characterization dominates, and when it doesn’t, rich tonal effects lend vividness to this music, as in a particularly haunting example of a Neapolitan night song, La veglia ’s lullaby, “Dormi o ninno.” Written roughly two decades after the other cantatas on this album, Sembri stella felice stands a bit apart. It is more consciously forward-looking and Baroque in the sense of most listener’s expectations, thanks to its figured bass, more conventional recitatives, and da capo arias.


The CD also provides two three-movement string sonatas by Pietro Andrea Ziani. Caresana may have studied with him in Venice. Regardless, he became master of the royal chapel in 1680, at a time when Caresana was its organist, and Provenzale assistant master. The first movement of both works is a ricercar, in the latter sense that evolved: not as a rhapsodic piece, but as one based entirely on imitative textures. Each middle movement is a toccata, improvisatory and rhapsodic; the final movement of No. 15 is another ricercar, while that of No. 17 is yet another toccata. I couldn’t help thinking that all three toccatas seemed to provide the harmonic and rhythmic setting for improvised solos that I Turchini never provided. Neither sonata in any case displays much of musical interest.


The performances are enthusiastic, instrumentally expert, and vocally a bit rough. All of the singers manage the required coloratura, though only Maria Grazia Schiavo does so with ease. (Her perfectly placed tone is a delight as she leads the shepherds in “Al cantar dell’ussignuolo.”) She and two other performers, Valentina Varriale and Giussepe de Vittorio, were also featured in another recent Florio/I Turchini effort, Leo’s L’Alidoro (Dynamic 588/1-2), recorded one year earlier, in 2008. Presumably, they were chosen for this as well either out of convenience, or because they fit Florio’s conception of these works. Certainly all are stylish, though Varriale’s tone is sometimes thin, Vittorio’s voice remains harshly tight, and the brighter-sounding Rosario Totaro displays a casual relationship with pitch. For pure theater, Giuseppe Naviglio gets the palm: an outraged Lucifer, a sour demon, yet also a fine instance of carefully shaded cantabile singing in the aforementioned La veglia lullaby.


Texts are supplied, along with translations into English and French. The engineering is good, with none of the cathedral ambiance used to disguise wiry instrumental tone and imperfect ensemble. Naturally, it helps that I Turchini suffers from neither defect.


In short, recommended. This is delightful music and, despite a few performance flaws, engagingly played.


FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

1.
La Veglia by Cristoforo Caresana
Performer:  Rosario Totaro (Tenor), Giuseppe De Vittorio (Tenor), Maria Grazia Schiavo (Soprano),
Filippo Mineccia (Countertenor), Valentina Varriale (Soprano), Giuseppe Naviglio (Baritone)
Conductor:  Antonio Florio
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Turchini
Period: Baroque 
2.
Demonio, Angelo e Tre Pastori by Cristoforo Caresana
Performer:  Rosario Totaro (Tenor), Giuseppe De Vittorio (Tenor), Maria Grazia Schiavo (Soprano),
Filippo Mineccia (Countertenor), Valentina Varriale (Soprano), Giuseppe Naviglio (Baritone)
Conductor:  Antonio Florio
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Turchini
Period: Baroque 
3.
Sonatas (20), Op. 7: no 17 by Pietro Andrea Ziani
Conductor:  Antonio Florio
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Turchini
4.
Sembri Stella Felice, Partenope Leggiadra by Cristoforo Caresana
Performer:  Rosario Totaro (Tenor), Giuseppe De Vittorio (Tenor), Maria Grazia Schiavo (Soprano),
Filippo Mineccia (Countertenor), Valentina Varriale (Soprano), Giuseppe Naviglio (Baritone)
Conductor:  Antonio Florio
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Turchini
Period: Baroque 
5.
Sonatas (20), Op. 7: no 15 by Pietro Andrea Ziani
Conductor:  Antonio Florio
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Turchini
Period: Baroque 
Written: Italy 
6.
L’Adoratione de’ Maggi by Cristoforo Caresana
Performer:  Giuseppe De Vittorio (Tenor), Maria Grazia Schiavo (Soprano), Filippo Mineccia (Countertenor),
Valentina Varriale (Soprano), Rosario Totaro (Tenor), Giuseppe Naviglio (Baritone)
Conductor:  Antonio Florio
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Turchini

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