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Neapolitan Christmas - Durante / Mameli, Eittinger, Post, Willens

Durante / Mameli / Eittinger / Willens
Release Date: 11/15/2011 
Label:  Cpo   Catalog #: 777571  
Composer:  Francesco Durante
Performer:  Ursula EttingerRoberta MameliAndreas PostStephan Macleod
Conductor:  Michael Alexander Willens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne Academy
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



DURANTE Pastoral Mass. Ad presepe venite. Litanie della Beata Maria Virginæ. Magnificats: in B?, c Michael Alexander Willens, cond; Roberta Mameli (sop); Ursula Eittinger (mez); Andreas Post (tenor); Stephan MacLeod (bs); Cologne Acad (period instruments) CPO 777 571 (72:51 Text and Translation)


It may seem a bit awkward to be reviewing a disc of Christmas music at this time of year, but in my defense I should Read more point out two things: First, as this is being written it is Christmas, and second, this sort of sacred music is playable any time of the year, regardless of the season. The creation of music for this significant annual season has occupied composers of the 17th and 18th centuries in numerous ways involving not only liturgical works but also newly written cantatas or pastorales that focus upon both the nativity itself and the importance of the birth of Christ for humanity. In short, it is an inspirational time of year that seems tailor-made to write music of all types and varieties.


Neapolitan music of the early galant heralds the emerging Classical style, always lyrical, homophonic, and graced with contrasts that allow for emotions within the music to emerge. It is equally significant that Naples not only housed famous teachers in the conservatories, but that these taught and inspired men such as Cimarosa, Paisiello, and others, without whom Italian opera would be quite bereft. One such was Francesco Durante, who although he did not compose opera nonetheless left his mark on a huge number of people ranging from his protégé Giovanni Pergolesi to the aforementioned. It is good to see that his music, mostly written for the church, is undergoing somewhat of a rediscovery, for it represents a vital historical link in the development of Classical-period music. Durante began his career at the San Onofrio Conservatory in 1710 at the age of 26, and within 20 years was hailed as the foremost maestro in the city, although he was now at the Poveri di Gesù Cristo Conservatory. His third and final post was maestro at the Santa Maria Conservatory in 1742, meaning that he was active virtually everywhere in the city.


This disc presents one of his Christmas motets, Ad presepe venite , to which is added two Marian Magnificats, a litany, and a Mass that Durante labeled for some reason “Pastorale.” Of these, the motet is clearly the most advanced work, with oboes and horns that add a particular brightness to the sound in the first movement. This is a lilting pastoral Siciliano in 12/8 time, in which the soloists act as a chorus of the whole. The harmony is mainly triadic, but one can feel the bucolic nature of the work. The first aria, “Candida lumina,” has a soaring melodic line that contains extensive coloratura, with some nice register leaps. The central section seems a bit perfunctory, but that just outlines the faster portions all the better. The work concludes with a duet for alto and tenor, a solemn-paced pastoral movement that would not be out of place in Vivaldi, especially with some nicely pungent suspension. The two Magnificats are more conservative works, although the second, in C Minor, is a short, sweet chorus with only an organ continuo to back it up. This is clearly useful, meant for churches with little resources. The Mass has a wonderful chromatic line in the violin, and Durante makes good use of pedal points to anchor the sometimes angular choral writing.


The performance by Michael Willens and his Cologne Academy is excellent. He keeps the tempos moving along nicely, and the instruments phrase things quite sensitively. Roberta Mameli has a bright, clear voice, handling the various displays with little effort, such as the melismas of the “Candida Lumine” aria in the motet. In this same work, Ursula Eittinger blends well with tenor Andreas Post, although she often seems closer to an alto than a mezzo. Her voice is nicely resonant and has more depth than one might expect. Stephan McLeod also has some wonderful declamatory lines in the B?-Major Magnificat. In short, this is a recording that not only continues Willens as one of the premier Baroque/Classical interpreters, it also offers a crucial and well-performed insight into a composer who is only now beginning to be recognized for his impact on the development of the Classical style. My only moment of surprise is that only the motet actually incorporates the oboes and horns; surely a selection of Durante’s music can be found to make more use of these instruments. Still, this comes highly recommended.


FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
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Works on This Recording

1. Magnificat a 4 in C minor by Francesco Durante
Performer:  Ursula Ettinger (Alto), Roberta Mameli (Soprano), Andreas Post (Tenor),
Stephan Macleod (Bass)
Conductor:  Michael Alexander Willens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne Academy
2. Ad presepe venite "Pastorale o Mottetto per la nativitate Jesu Criste" by Francesco Durante
Performer:  Ursula Ettinger (Alto), Roberta Mameli (Soprano), Andreas Post (Tenor),
Stephan Macleod (Bass)
Conductor:  Michael Alexander Willens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne Academy
Period: Baroque 
Written: 18th Century; Italy 
3. Magnificat a 4 in Bb major by Francesco Durante
Performer:  Ursula Ettinger (Alto), Roberta Mameli (Soprano), Andreas Post (Tenor),
Stephan Macleod (Bass)
Conductor:  Michael Alexander Willens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne Academy
Period: Baroque 
Written: 18th Century; Italy 
4. Litanie della BMV in F minor by Francesco Durante
Performer:  Ursula Ettinger (Alto), Roberta Mameli (Soprano), Andreas Post (Tenor),
Stephan Macleod (Bass)
Conductor:  Michael Alexander Willens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne Academy
Period: Baroque 
Written: 18th Century; Italy 
5. Mass in A major "Kyrie-Gloria" by Francesco Durante
Performer:  Ursula Ettinger (Alto), Roberta Mameli (Soprano), Andreas Post (Tenor),
Stephan Macleod (Bass)
Conductor:  Michael Alexander Willens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne Academy

Sound Samples

Ad presepe venite (arr. M.A. Willens): Ad presepe (Chorus)
Ad presepe venite (arr. M.A. Willens): Recitativo: Alto de coeli (Soprano)
Ad presepe venite (arr. M.A. Willens): Aria: Candida lumina (Soprano)
Ad presepe venite (arr. M.A. Willens): Recitativo: In hac dicta beata (Alto, Tenor)
Ad presepe venite (arr. M.A. Willens): Duet: Ardente luce amara (Alto, Tenor)
Magnificat a 4 in B flat major (arr. M.A. Willens)
Litania della Beata Maria Vergine in F minor (arr. M.A. Willens): Kyrie
Litania della Beata Maria Vergine in F minor (arr. M.A. Willens): Virgo prudentissima
Litania della Beata Maria Vergine in F minor (arr. M.A. Willens): Regina angelorum
Litania della Beata Maria Vergine in F minor (arr. M.A. Willens): Agnus Dei
Magnificat a 4 in C minor (arr. N. Heine)
Missa in pastorale in A major (arr. M.A. Willens): Kyrie
Missa in pastorale in A major (arr. M.A. Willens): Gloria
Missa in pastorale in A major (arr. M.A. Willens): Gratias (Soprano)
Missa in pastorale in A major (arr. M.A. Willens): Domine Deus (Soprano, Alto)
Missa in pastorale in A major (arr. M.A. Willens): Qui tollis
Missa in pastorale in A major (arr. M.A. Willens): Quoniam (Bass)
Missa in pastorale in A major (arr. M.A. Willens): Cum sancto

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