giovedì 9 giugno 2016

Passo di Pena in Pena. Cantate Italiane

23 tracks - MP3 192 Kbps - RAR 124 Mb

“Magnificient first recital, with a program of great coherence […] warm, soft timbre […] The italo-spanish countertenor masters perfectly the most formidable and feared techniques: messa di voce (the Scarlatti arioso is anthological), trilli (with insolent ease in the Vivaldi), passaggi (in the aggressive “Navicella” of Bononcini), legato (in the Porpora), never sacrificing the expressiveness and the elocution, founding elements of belcanto’s nobility. […] Here is a pure-singing countertenor, agile and attentive to the smallest inflections of the poetic text.”

As the rather extensive booklet notes by countertenor Flavio Ferri-Benedetti state, the Italian secular cantata was a byproduct of the so-called focus of the early 18th-century intellectual circles on good poetry based generally on classical themes. The result was a veritable torrent of smaller chamber works meant to highlight this literary genre, which had the effect of establishing it as one of the preferred vocal formats of the period. The settings were generally for voice and continuo, but here one finds a selection of works that include a full four-part accompaniment of strings. This allows for a fuller texture, making them more akin to brief opera scenes. 

The composers here need no special introductions, as all are fairly well-represented in the historical repertory. Giovanni Bononcini was Handel’s rival in London, and of course Alessandro Scarlatti and Vivaldi were the leading opera composers in their native land. Porpora also established himself as a composer for the stage in both Italy and London before winding up in Vienna, where he taught Haydn (who was also his valet for a time). The only odd person out is Pietro Locatelli, but here one of his trio sonatas offers up a bit of contrast to the Arcadian cantatas. The works too are no strangers, for all have been recorded before, sometimes often. Scarlatti’s Ombre tacite already has a nice performance by Matthew White and the Voix Baroque on Analekta from 2007, and Vivaldi’s Amor ha vinto seems to have been done by any soprano worth her salt. It is hard to compete with the Vivaldi Edition’s recording with Gemma Bertagnolli. That being said, Ferri-Benedetti does these works considerable justice. 

In the opening famous aria “Lungi da te ben mio” from Ecco, Dorinda , the gentle wafting of the melody is dream-like, and when the tempo increases in the second section, his decisive rendering of the coloratura makes for a delightful contrast. His ornamentation of the repeat A section is tasteful and sometimes more subtle. The prancing minuet of “D’un cor che tace” in Porpora’s Venticel gives special emphasis to the word “pieta” (mercy), making the imprecation quite insistent as the text requires. The key to the vibrancy of performance, however, lies in the Amor hai vinto by Vivaldi, for this is where one can find the most comparisons. The final aria “Se a me rivogle” with its tortuous vocal roulades is performed here with ease and decisiveness. 

The orchestral accompaniment of Il Profondo is nicely equalized in terms of texture and sound. They serve well as partners with Ferri-Benedetti’s flexible and clear voice. In short, this is an excellent disc of intimate chamber works that would well be worth acquiring. 


Alessandro Scarlatti 
Ombre tacite e sole
Giovanni Bononcini 
Ecco Dorinda il giorno, for tenor, 2 violins & basso continuo
Pietro A. Locatelli 
Sonata for 2 violins & continuo in F minor, Op. 8/9
Nicolo Porpora 
Venticel che trà le frondi
Antonio Vivaldi 
Amor hai vinto, RV 683

Flavio Ferri-Benedetti, countertenor
Ensemble Il Profondo 

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