AMORE E MORTE DELL’AMORE Roberta Invernizzi, Sonia Prina Ensemble Claudiana Dir. Luca Pianca. Naïve, fall 2013. Sample it here
So here is the recording of the early baroque duetti for mezzo and soprano. Whereas several good recent CDs of the Handel duets exist, this is not exactly the case with the Monteverdi & comp era duetti. (One that I recently bumped into really enthralled me. I was resistant to the idea of having a countertenor part of the singing couple, but Rene Jacobs and my oldest mezzo crush Helga Mueller-Molinari are absolutely magical together.)
As I’ve never before heard Monteverdi’s “Mentre vada Angioletta”, this number is probably for me the biggest revelation. The text describes what kinds of sounds the fair Angioletta makes while singing—bends, pushes the harmonies, breaks accents, twists, goes slow, fast, murmurs, the shifting tones then the resting ones, pressing, pouring, eccetera—and the music onomatopoeically mirrors the text at every stage. I knew that madrigals are carnal this way a lot of the time, but this is a whole new level. Multiply all that by two and intertwine the voices, and you’ll get the picture of Angioletta.
The other Monteverdi numbers do not disappoint either. The recording opens with the pleading, chromatic “Interotte speranze” in which the two timbres establish how well they get along, even while beseeching. Maybe a third woman? Or each other? Or is it that one abandoned lover’s voice doubles in suffering? I’ll leave it to you to decide.
The musicians dared to include yet another edition of “Pur ti miro”, but as you’re listening you’re realizing that the two singers do add to this remarkable tradition some new twists. The orchestral segments stand out. Luca Pianca does some particularly fine theorbo fingerwork, after which Riccardo Minasi at the violin (or is it lira da braccio?) impresses with the melodic lines that are an imaginative rearrangement of what one usually hears in the accompaniment for this duetto.
“Vorrei baciarti” may remind you of the famous duet between Nerone with his bestie Lucano from L’Incoronazione di Poppea. This one reads equally sexual (and that’s saying something!), but of course via the usual codes of the fountains of sweetness, weeping eyes, welcoming mouths, pearls and rubies.
Other composers on the disc are less known: Benedetto Marcello, Antonio Lotti, Francesco Durante, in addition to some obscure geezer called Handel. (There had to be some Handel, I suppose… but the musicians steered clear of his Greatest Hits bag and explored two little known pieces from the Italian stage of il Sassone). My second biggest revelation of the disc was the incredible “Son io barbara donna” by Durante. It’s a long, complex and very sensuous lament that goes from stage to glorious stage. Anybody who loves Strozzi’s “Udite amanti” will really appreciate this one.
Ensemble Claudiana shows us what it’s got with an instrumental sonata by Scarlatti at the mid-way point in the recording. It’s a beautifully rendered piece with some unexpected colouring and what sounds like a lot of well-placed rubato and improvised embellishments. (It was probably all rehearsed down to a T—but I can never tell these things and the playing kept me curious.)
The only thing missing in the liner notes is the information on who wrote the poetry. Not all of the texts are anonymous, surely?
Definitely one for the collection, though.