Monday 2 July 2018

What a delightful voice: getting to know Gasparini with Carlo Ipata & Auser Musici

The Gasparni Album - Glossa
Francesco Gasparini arias; Roberta Invernizzi, Auser Musici, Carlo Ipata; Glossa Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 5 June 2018 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
Engaging performances of arias ranging widely over the career of this undeservedly lesser known Baroque composer

Francesco Gasparini (1661-1727) is not, yet, a household name though we are already discovering what a big influence he had on later composers with his opera Il Bajazet being an important pre-cursor to Handel's Tamerlano, and Gasparini's Faramondo had a strong influence of Handel's opera of that name.

On this disc from soprano Roberta Invernizzi, Auser Musici and Carlo Ipata, on Glossa, we have a selection of arias from Gasparini's operas from Roderigo (1686) to Bajazette (1723), plus his cantata Andate o miei sospiri (1712) and his Concerto per flauto.

Born in Tuscany, Gasparini studied in Rome where his teachers probably included Corelli. He would develop into a fine teacher himself, numbering Marcello, Quantz and Domenico Scarlatti as pupils. His career would be spent mainly on an axis between Rome and Venice, with opera as his principal output, over 60 in all, plus oratorios and cantatas.

At the end of the 17th century he was in Rome in the orchestra of Cardinal Benedetto Pamphili [for whom Handel composed cantatas in 1707-1710], alongside Corelli and the Bononcini brothers [Giovanni Bononcini would be in London from 1720 to 1732 as a rival to Handel]. From 1701 to 1713, Gasparini was in Venice as choir master to the Ospedale della Pieta [where Vivaldi was also employed from 1703-1715], where he was responsible for the education of the daughters of the Ospedale. And the concerto on the disc is one of the many he wrote for them. Then in 1716 he returned to Rome, replacing Antonio Caldara [who went on to become Vize-Kapellemeister to the Imperial Court in Vienna] as chapel master to Prince Maria Ruspoli [another of Handel's Italian patrons], though by the 1720s his style was beginning to look somewhat old-fashioned compared to younger men like Porpora and Vinci.

Carlo Ipata and Auser Musici recorded Gasparini's 1719 version of Il Bajazet for Glossa in 2015 [see my review], the opera being a significat influence on Handel's Tamerlano with some remarkable links between the two operas. Ipata describes this new disc as a tribute to the composer, and the selection of music ranges widely. We have 11 opera arias, from Il Roderigo (1686), Atalia (1692), Amleto (1705), Il Tamerlano (1711), Il Ciro (1716), Astinatte (1719), L'oracolo del Fato (1719), Bajazette (1723), plus a sinfonia from Engelberta (1708), as well as an aria from the oratorio Santa Eufrosina (1717, written for Prince Ruspoli), plus the cantata Andate o miei sospiri (1712, written for Venice) and the flute concerto with Carlo Ipata as the soloist.

The arias are generally short, with five minutes the maximum duration, and Ipata has come up with a varied selection which encompasses moods varying from the vivid aria complete with solo trumpet, from L'Astianatte which opens the disc to the more intimate arias such as one from Bajazette with a solo flute. These are arias intended for bravura performance, and Roberta Invernizzi is fearless in the complex passagework, though sometimes the approach can veer towards the mannered. But overall these are vivid performances of very engaging and often complex music.

Part of the appeal of the disc is to hear more of Gasparini's voice, and what a delightful one it is, with many of the arias having a plangently lyrical or toe-tapping element to them. And the instrumental numbers are equally appealing, with Auser Musici giving vividly engaged performances which bring the music alive.

The recording, done in the Teatro Rossi Aperto in Pisa, does rather give too much acoustic round the music but that is the only quibble. There is a fine booklet article by Carlo Ipata along with full texts and translations.

If the idea of a complete opera by a lesser known 17th/18th century composer ratther makes you quail then this set is an ideal introduction to the music of a composer whose work deserves to be better known.

Francesco Gasparini (1661-1727) - arias from Il Roderigo (1686), Atalia (1692), Amleto (1705), Il Tamerlano (1711), Il Ciro (1716), Santa Eufrosina (1717), Astinatte (1719), L'oracolo del Fato (1719), Bajazette (1723)
Francesco Gasparini - sinfonia from Engelberta (1708)
Francesco Gasparini -  Andate o miei sospiri (1712)
Francesco Gasparini  - Concerto per flauto
Roberto Invernizzi (soprano)
Auser Musici
Carlo Ipata (conductor and traverso)
Recorded in the Teatro Rossi Apero, Pisa, 24-27 August 2016
GLOSSA GCD922905 1CD [59.30]
Available from Amazon.

Elsewhere on this blog:
  • Coming into focus: Kasper Holten's production of Don Giovanni returns to the Royal Opera  (★★★★★) - Opera review
  • A great big present: Stephen Medcalf on returning to Buxton to direct his favourite piece, Idomeneo  - interview
  • Handel's finest arias for base voice - Christopher Purves, Jonathan Cohen and Arcangelo (★★★★★)  - CD review
  • Story-telling in America: Verdi's Un ballo in maschera at Grange Park Opera (★★★★) - Opera review
  • Each a world unto itself: Arvo Pärt The Symphonies (★★★★) - CD review
  • Intimate, candid and completely fascinating: The Tchaikovsky Papers - unlocking the family archive (★★★★) - book review
  • Notable debuts & a veteran director: Die Entführung aus dem Serail from the Grange Festival - opera review
  • Vivid drama: Handel's Agrippina at The Grange Festival  (★★★★★) - opera review
  • Rip-roaring fun: Elena Langer's Rhondda Rips It Up! (★★★★) - music theatre review
  • Debut: Soprano Chen Reiss sings her first staged Zerlina for her Covent Garden debut  - interview
  • Home

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