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8.553319 - Lamenti Barocchi, Vol. 2

Lamenti Barocchi, Vol. 2
Monteverdi • Rossi • Strozzi • Bassani • Marcello • Fontana


The lament plays an important part in Baroque vocal repertoire, with an earlier literary and musical counterpart in the sixteenth century madrigal. In early opera one of the most influential such compositions was Monteverdi's Lament of Arianna, a work that survives from a lost opera on the subject of Ariadne, deserted by Theseus on the island of Naxos. Monteverdi adapted the lament as a madrigal, following contemporary practice, and later, towards the end of his life, gave it a sacred text. In 1638, in his eighth book of madrigals, he provided another notable lament in his Lamento della ninfa, one of his Canti amorosi, the counterpart of the Canti guerrieri that form the first part of the collection. The lament itself, based on the distinctive and increasingly customary descending four notes in the bass, is framed by sections for two tenors and bass. The text is by Rinuccini, the author of Arianna and Il ballo delle ingrate.

The violinist, organist and composer Giovanni Battista Bassani was born in Padua about the year 1657. He had an early connection with Ferrara and in 1677 was accepted as a member of the Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna, taking a position as organist to a religious confraternity in Modena, three years later entering the service of Duke Alessandro II della Mirandola. A brief period as principe of the Accademia Filarmonica was followed by a return to Ferrara as maestro di cappella of the Accademia della Morte, where he had earlier served as organist, succeeding Tosi in this position and soon also as organist at Ferrara Cathedral. In 1712 he moved to Bergamo as director of music at S Maria Maggiore and died there in 1716. He won contemporary and posthumous fame for his violin compositions, but was also a composer of opera, oratorio, church music and a quantity of secular vocal music. In this last category falls Il musico svogliato, an amusing scene in which a musician makes every apology for not performing. The plaintive and ornamented song he is eventually persuaded to attempt and which he refuses to finish is in contrast to the recitative in which he makes his excuses of thirst, cold, draught, indisposition and finally of loss of memory and not having the book to hand.

The Lamento di Zaida mora by Luigi Rossi sets a lament by the Moorish girl Zaida for the loss of her lover Mustafa, seized by a Christian marauder and taken as a prisoner to Italy, a characteristic treatment of a subject drawn from the neighbouring Islamic world. The lament, in which Zaida inveighs against her barbarous enemy, is framed by introductory and concluding narrative. Rossi himself was born in Torremaggiore about the year 1597 and studied in Naples, where he remained for some years in the service of the court. He later moved to Rome in the service of the Borghese family and became organist at the church of S Luigi dei Francesi in 1633, retaining this position until his death in 1653. He joined the musical establishment of Cardinal Antonio Barberini in 1641 and wrote for him his very successful opera, Il palazzo incantato, followed by a second opera, Orfeo, for the French court, during the period of the Barberinis' exile, after the death of the Barberini Pope, whose patronage was so important to the cultural life of Rome. His compositions include some three hundred or so surviving cantatas in which he captures a blend of recitative, arioso and lyrical aria, as in the present lament, one of seventeen such compositions. Rossi's Ingordo human desio sets a poem in a more regular metre than the varied versi sciolti of the Lamento di Zaida mora, its ten-line stanzas in a rhyming pattern of seven-syllable lines and hendecasyllabics. This account of the vanity of human wishes again blends recitative, arioso and aria.

The Lamento dell'impotente, with a text attributed to Francesco Melosi and openly enough dealing with a sad male predicament, is by Fabrizio Fontana, who was born in Turin about the year 1620 and made his career in Rome, where he was a member of the Congregazione di S Cecilia. By 1657 he was organist at St Peter's and for many years was guardiano of the group of organists in the Congregazione. He retained his position at St Peter's until 1691. While chiefly remembered for his somewhat conservative organ compositions, he appears in a different light in the present lament, a light-hearted jeu d'esprit that mingles recitative and arioso, wittily giving musical expression to sentiments worthier of Catullus than of the organist of St Peter's.

Barbara Strozzi was the adopted daughter of the poet and playwright Giulio Strozzi, himself the illegitimate son of the Venetian banker Roberto Strozzi, a scion of the Florentine family of that name. She was born in Venice in 1619 and was a pupil of Cavalli, winning a reputation as a singer and as a composer. Her participation was an important feature of the meetings of the Accademia degli Unisoni at the house of Giulio Strozzi. The latter's enemies accused him of acting as a pimp for his adopted daughter and regretted Monteverdi's occasional connection with the Accademia degli Unisoni. Barbara Strozzi was, nevertheless, a composer of some ability, while Giulio Strozzi was himself important as a librettist for Monteverdi and for others. She died in Venice in 1664. Setting words by her adoptive father, she reflects in her musical style the influence of her teacher Cavalli, as in the present effective duet, 'Merce di voi'.

The anonymous Lamento del castrato allows the castrato to point out the advantages of his state, in which intercourse will not result in unwelcome pregnancy, although one may recall the marriage of the castrato Tenducci, who married in Ireland and, according to Casanova, fathered two children. The musical setting, in recitative and arioso, matches the views expressed. To this the witty epigram of the Venetian Benedetto Marcello, composer and author of the satirical Teatro alla moda provides an elegant and self-explanatory pendant, Lamento dei castrati.

Keith Anderson

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