Wednesday 25 September 2013

Amore e morte dell'amore

Amore e morte dell'amore: Naive OP 30549
This new disc from two of the stars of the baroque operatic firmament presents us with a lovely selection of duets, duetti da camera, from  from the 17th century. Though Monteverdi is best known for the form, here we hear a selection of duets by Monteverdi, Marcello, Handel, Lotti and Duranti performed by soprano Roberta Invernizzi and contraldo Sonia Prina accompanied by Ensemble Claudiana directed from the theorbo by Luca Pianca.

As soon as the first notes start you know that you are going to be in for a treat. I have long been an admirer of both Prina and Invernizzi and together they make a superbly vibrant and communicative team. Both have richly expressive voices and strong techniques, and here they show that they make a formidable musical partnership with their voices blending and complementing each other well.

Monteverdi's Interotte Speranza opens with a strikingly sonorous recitation for both voices. Quite simple, but superbly realised with the two singers, native Italian speakers, making the most of the combination of words and music. The piece is quite austere, as befits the text which sees a disappointed lover preparing for the funeral pyre, but it is deeply expressive. Monteverdi's Mentre vaga Angioletta sees a lover delighted by Angioletta's singing. It starts with just two voices in unison, and alternates between incredible fast passages and slower ones responsive to text and meaning. But it is the effortless cascades of runs from the two singers which dazzle.

Next comes a duet by Benedetto Marcello, Se morted mi brami. Marcello was a pupil of Antonio Lotti whose music also features on the disc. Marcello's music is more experimental than that of his teacher, with some lovely expressive dissonances which the two singers clearly relish. The melodic material features dramatic leaps and chromaticism with a powerful combination of music and words (If you wish me dead, why do you not slay me, cruel beauty).

We move forward in time somewhat for the next piece, Handel's Tanti strali, one of the duets he wrote during his Italian period, 1707-10. It requires quite a degree of vocal virtuosity, and alternates bravura moments with slower, intense ones. The performers open the work in an infectiously lively manner, with some notable melodic beauty later on.

We have two voices here, both sonorous and richly characterful, vibrant with deep resonances, but also great technical control. The two are nicely contrasted, it is always clear who is whom, but they form a well balanced pairing.

We return to Monterverdi for the great closing duet from his opera L'Incoronazione di Poppea. It may well not be by Monteverdi, but who cares. It is a stupendous piece and here Prina and Invernizzi's voices intertwine languorously and they relish the clashes and suspensions.

Antonio Lotti was the maestro di capella at St Mark's in Venice from 1736, though he had worked there in various guises since 1692. He taught both Marcello and Baldassare Galuppi. Though only 20 years younger than Handel, his duet Giuramento amoroso is rather conservative for the time, owing a lot to the example of Alessandro Scarlatti. His material is organised in a very structured way with the voices often in canon, something which could be stylised but here Prina and Invernizzi make very affecting.

Domenico Scarlatti's Sonata x 90 gives us a chance to appreciated the fine contributions form the instrumentalists with Riccardo Minasi on violin and lira da braccio, Margaret Koll on triple harp, Marco Frezzato on cello, Giancarlo de Frenza on double bass and Luca Pianca's expressive and imaginative theorbo.

More grief of the abandoned lover in Monteverdi's Ohime, dov'e il mio ben which opens with a lovely suspension. Here again, the performers give a lively attention to the combination of words and music whilst still managing to throw off the more bravura moments with applomb.

Francesco Durante is from the Neapolitan School, and his style was again new in its day. Son io Barbara donna opens with a flexible recitative expressive and fascinating with a highly chromatic melody, leading to a cavatina with the voices generally in thirds and lovely rocking motion in the melody.

Monteverdi's Vorrei baciarti opens with hypnotic repetition in the two voices, as the poet contemplates kissing Phyllis. Finally, Handel on bravura form in Sono liete, fortunate which opens with immense swagger and some superb passagework, with a slower, highly affecting middle section.

This disc takes the duetto da camera from Monteverdi's innovations, introducing the Seconda prattica with just two voices accompanied by instruments,through later Italian composers and right through to Handel and to the Neapolitan school which would ultimately influence Rossini. The disc includes full texts and translations, along with an article about the music and artist biographies.

This is a terrifice disc which will get played repeated at home. Roberta Invernizzi and Sonia Prina are both technically superb but as important is the fine feel for both words and music. They well supported by the instrumental playing of Ensemble Claudiana. Highly recommended indeed.

Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643) - Interrotte speranza [3.11]
Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643) - Mentre vaga Angioletta [9.07]
Benedetto Marcello (1686 - 1739) - Se morto mi brami [6.07]
George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759) - Tanti strali [8.11]
Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643) - Pur ti miro (L'Incoronazione di Poppea) [4.36]
Antonio Lotti (1667 - 1740) - Guiramento amoroso [5.32]
Domenico Scarlatti (1685 - 1757) - Sonata x 90 [11.00]
Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643) - Ohime, dov'e il mio ben [5.08]
Francesco Durante (1684 - 1755) - Son io barbara donna [6.51]
Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643) - Vorrei baciarti [3.58]
George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759) - Sono liete, fortunate [4.39]
Roberta Invernizzi (soprano)
Sonia Prina (contralto)
Ensemble Claudiana (Marco Frezzato - cello, Giancarlo de Frenza - double bass, Riccardo Minasi - violin and lira da braccio, Margaret Koll - triple harp)
Luca Pianca (theorbo and conductor)

Recorded in December 2013 at the Studio Tibor Varga, Sion, Switzerland

naive  OP 30549 1CD [60.08]

Amore e morte dell'amore - duetti da camera; Roberta Invernizzi, Sonia Prina, Ensemble Claudiana; naive
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Sep 24 2013
Rating: 5.0
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