Notes and Editorial Reviews
Matthias Jung, cond; Anja Zügner (sop); Maria Perlt (sop); Annekathrin Laabs (mez); Andreas Post (ten); Wolf Matthias Friedrich (bs); Sächsiches Vocalensmble; Betzdorfer Hofkapelle (period instruments)
CPO 777 726 (73:24
Text and Translation)
The main reputation of Domenico Sarri (sometimes also spelled Sarro, 1679-1744) is as a composer of opera. He was particularly known for his intermezzos, but he was also the
maestro di capella to the Neapolitan court, a position that required him to compose copious amounts of sacred music. Apart from the odd aria and cantata, as well as the intermezzo
Moscetta e Grullo
and a couple of smaller instrumental works, very little of his music has been available, with the result that his importance among his colleagues Leonardo Vinci, Johann Adolph Hasse, Giovanni Pergolesi, Francesco Durante, and Leonardo Leo has been somewhat difficult to determine. No matter, since this disc presents two of the numerous sacred works that Sarri originally composed for the Neapolitan churches but which achieved circulation as far away as Prague and Dresden.
There are two works presented here, a Mass, consisting of the usual Kyrie and Gloria broken down into a number of individual movements, and his setting of Psalm 109,
, likewise divided. The Dixit was probably written before 1720 but the Mass has a date of 1739 penned to the score used for this recording from the Saxon State Archives. Given that both use judicious alternations of solo voices and chorus in a sort of call and response fashion, it may well be that they are contemporaneous. In fact, the lack of clear cut lyrical themes, the reliance upon an often driving walking bass line (here performed with strict martial precision), and the reliance upon the sort of counterpoint found in the
all point to a style steeped in the baroque. One might say Vivaldi was the model, given some of the turns of phrase and sequencing in the instrumental accompaniment, but other items, such as the use of the continuo aria in the Virgam vertutis of the Dixit, are closer to Alessandro Scarlatti’s work from around 1700. Sarri is cautious in his use of fugal counterpoint. For example, in the Christe he begins what sounds like a double fugue first in the solo voices and then the chorus, but this trails off into chains of suspensions. The Et in terra pax has a subdued tone with non-thematic violin lines framing a series of descending block harmonies in the chorus. The Gratias agimus tibi is almost minimalistic, with violins entering only as ritornellos, while the alto moves along in a gentle minuet. The Qui sedes has a traverse flute with a meandering solo line worthy of a Bach cantata, while the Quoniam, which ends in the predictable fugue, opens with an alto cantus firmus line. The Dixit too has its wonderful moments, with a gnarly modulatory sequence right at the beginning that wanders around F Major, concluding a minor third higher. Sarri’s instrumentation is focused on the strings; the trumpets, used sparingly in the Gloria, mostly add a small bit of color by echoing the vocal lines, and of course he doubles with the oboes at every chance to thicken the texture. The result is a pair of works that have recognizable musical moments reflecting Vivaldi, Handel, Scarlatti, and even Zelenka, but are formulated in such a way as to be fairly individualistic.
The performance by the Betzdorfer Hofkapelle under Matthias Jung is precise. Often Jung takes the marching bass line foundation at a rapid clip, which adds a certain austerity to the music but keeps it from being bogged down. The voices are flexible and adept, though one soprano, Anja Zügner I believe (since their solo roles are not specified), can occasionally be slightly flat, such as in the Laudamusi te of the Mass. Bass Wolf Friedrich has a rich and flexible tone that suits the quality of his arias perfectly One only has to hear the Handelian sequences of the Qui tollis to be quite entranced by the nicely nuanced performance. The others are also quite clear and blend with the crisp playing of the Kapelle well. The chorus can sound woolly at moments, but this seems to be a function of the recording venue and microphone placement, for they too handle Sarri’s often intricate choral parts with considerable ease. In short, if one is to embark upon the resurrection of Domenico Sarri’s sacred music, this is a good disc with which to begin. Hopefully, it will lead to a further and more extensive exploration of this composer’s other works.
FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
Works on This Recording
Missa by Domenico Natale Sarri
Psalm 109: Dixit Dominus by Domenico Natale Sarri
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