, March 2006
"Catacoustic Consort's new album of 17th-century laments should dispel any notions that an all-lament disc is a somber idea. "The Italian Dramatic Laments" is a radiant debut from the Glendale-based ensemble, led by artistic director Annalisa Pappano.
The recently released CD, available in local music stores and at Amazon.com, is a result of winning the Naxos/Early Music America recording competition.
Serene in mood, the album is a magical discovery of intimately scored music that sings of loss and love. As in her local concerts, Pappano, a master of several ancient instruments, has assembled a distinguished group of acclaimed early music artists to explore this exquisite 17th-century repertoire.
The instrumental ensemble - Pappano's lirone (which looks somewhat like a cello), a theorbo (a lute-like instrument performed by Michael Leopold) and a Baroque triple harp (Becky Baxter) - provides a delicate backdrop to these emotional gems, beautifully sung by soprano Catherine Webster.
The album opens with Monteverdi's famous "Lamento d'Arianna," the only remaining music from Monteverdi's opera, "L'Arianna." The lament, in which Arianna grieves that she has been abandoned and betrayed by Theseus, has a wonderfully fresh, improvisatory flavor. Webster projects a pure, vibrato-less tone that perfectly captures its despairing quality, and the ensemble seamlessly echoes the music's wide-ranging emotion.
The texts to these laments are surprisingly passionate. Sweetly tormented words such as "My heart always craves you, my heart values only you" (from a sonnet by Michelangelo Buonarotti) set by Peri as "Se tu parti da me" (If You Leave Me), might have been at home in the Romantic era.
Peri's "Lungi dal vostro lume" (Far from your light) sighs over the pain of separation. Webster's declamatory, freely expressive lines are beautifully ornamented, and her high register has a silvery lightness.
The music sometimes has amazingly modern sounds, such as the dissonances in Peri's "Uccidimi dolore" (Slay me, Grief), which tells of a noblewoman who has given her virginity to an ungrateful lover. Compared to its intense drama, Caccini's familiar "Amarilli" is beautiful for its simplicity.
Instrumental numbers include two movements from the "Libro Quarto" and a mournful little Passacaglia by Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger (1575-1661). Sustained chords in the lirone create a soothing, introspective backdrop to its gently rhythmic melodies.
The music is not all gloom. Jacopo Peri's "Al fonte al prato" (To the spring, to the meadow) is a cheerful ode to spring, with lovely contributions from Leopold on the theorbo. The album's finale, Caccini's "Amor ch'attendi" (Love, what are you waiting for) leaves the listener in an upbeat mood.
The texts are available at www.naxos.com/libretti/italianlament.htm"