A world première recording of Roman dramatic cantatas featuring Alessandro Stradella’s L'Incendio di Roma (The Fire of Rome) for bass (Nero) and strings, Luigi Rossi's melting and intoxicating Lament of Zaida on the abduction of Mustafa by Tuscan Christians, Marco Marazzoli's raging and turbulent Armida, the Saracen sorceress abandoned by Rinaldo, Domenico Mazzocchi's Lagrime Amare, one of the 17th-century's most unforgettable Magdalene laments, Giacomo Carissimi's Deh, memoria – and more, with lively yet reflective violin sonatas.
ATALANTEERIN HEADLEY - directorNadine Balbeisi, sopranoKatherine Watson, sopranoTheodora Baka, mezzo-sopranoSamuel Boden and Julian Podger, tenorsChristian Immler, bassSiobhán Armstrong, triple harpFredrik Bock, chitarroneJörg Jacobi, harpsichordErin Headley, viola da gamba and lironeBojan Cecic and Milos Valent, violinsAtalante’s consort of viols
Mortale, che pensi?Deh, memoriaSopra un'eccelsa torrePlorate' filii IsraePurpureus velutiSonata XXIXSparse 'il crine e lagrimosaDove fuggi, crudeleA piè del sanguinoso troncoLagrime amareHunc ego te Euryale aspicioSinfonia per 'Il Damone'
Manna from heaven to composers who remain unfairly lost in the wilderness read moreDavid Vickers Gramophone MagazineMUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL Recording Of The Month June 2014The effect is one of richness the like of which is a new listening experience for me. read moreGary Higginson MusicWeb InternationalThis disc is another gem. The music can't fail to impress. read moreJohan van Veen MusicWeb International…stylistically informed, and breathes this passionate music as though it were fresh and alive read moreBarry Brenesal FANFAREThis is another revelatory and inspiring release by Erin Headley and Atalante. read moreAndrew O'Connor International Record ReviewBeautiful CD, with exquisitely recorded performances read moreD James Ross Early Music Review
mannafrom heaven to composers who remain unfairly lost in the wildernessLirone player Erin Headley (co-founder of Tragicomedia) now has her own group, Atalante, who here present the third volume of an exceptional series investigating neglected music from early-17th-century Rome. Rossi's three-voice madrigal Mortale, the pensi? is a melancholic contemplation of the fleeting nature of mortality, sung gorgeously by sopranos Katherine Watson and Nadine Balbesi and tenor Samuel Boden; it leads without hesitation into Watson's enrapturing performance of Carissimi's solemn `Deh, memoria'. For good measure, Headley also throws in the famous final chorus of Carissimi's oratorio Yepthe, but played by a consort of viols. Christian Immler sings with virtuoso precision and a vivid sense of narrative in Stradella's solo bass cantata L'incendio di Roma, which describes the drunken Nero laughing as Rome burns and observes the tyrant's doom.Watson sings with piercing sweetness in Mazzochi's laments for the grieving mother of the murdered Euryalus (Nisus et Euryalus) and Mary Magadelene (Lagrime amare), both taken from the collection Dialogi e sonetti (Rome, 1638), whereas mezzo-soprano Theodora Baka takes centre stage in an impassioned performance of Marazzoli's Lamento d Armida and Boden's honeyed tenor gently describes the group of Mary at the foot of the cross in A pie del sanguinoso tronco (the music is anonymous but the poetry is by Cardinal Antonio Barberini). Atalante announce that the fourth 'Reliquie di Roma' volume will present two oratorios by Mazzochi, and thus this laudable enterprise will continue to offer manna from heaven to composers who remain unfairly lost in the wilderness.David Vickers GramophoneMUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL Recording Of The Month June 2014This CD is beautifully recorded…Ideal really. It is a firm fact of musical history that during the latter years of the 16th century in cities like Mantua and Florence, the so-called ‘Stile Rappresentativo’ burgeoned from the madrigal into what we now call Opera. The Academies were fascinated by what might have happened in ancient Greek drama and had a real delight in hearing a singer display a clear understanding of the text.Those early composers, Peri, Caccini, Marco da Gagliano and Monteverdi were the leading lights. It lesser known that Rome was also a strong centre of literary and musical developments well into the 1620s and beyond. One of the most avid patrons was Cardinal Antonio Barberini. At his court were composers like Domenico Mazzocchi and Luigi Rossi both represented on this CD.Erin Headley founded the group Atalante in 2008. Its aim is to semi-stage the cantatas, arias and madrigals of the period in costume. For this recording the group consists of five singers and eight instrumentalists including Erin Headley herself. She has specialised since her younger days in the ensemble Circa 1500 in the lirone, a strange sort of gamba which had a rather short but intense shelf life. The other instruments include a double harp and a chitarrone as well as strings. The effect is one of richness the like of which is a new listening experience for me. The booklet calls it a “luxurious continuo” and goes on to say that it is “not so much a question of accompaniment but rather a fully integrated conversation between voices and instruments”. I for one am smitten with the effect.But what of all these females listed at the top of the review? They are all women who lament the death of or abandonment by a lover. This is really a CD of Laments. One should not too surprised by this; think of Monteverdi’s ‘Lamento d’Arianna’ and ‘Lamento della Ninfa’. It was a popular form as it allowed first poets to explore a classical theme, a composer to write passionately and intensely and a singer to demonstrate the full range of his or her communicative qualities and abilities. Dividing up these vocal items are four instrumental ones.The recording gets its name from the opening work by Rossi which comes from a Barberini manuscript now in the Vatican. Apparently there are many hundreds, if not thousands, of madrigals and arias in these still little known manuscripts and many are anonymous. All singers are involved in this piece and its sets the somewhat sober mood: “O mortal what are you thinking/Your triumphs are fleeting/and there is a death at every moment …”. However it would be wrong to get the impression that the music is all rather dismal - quite the reverse. The way it is performed is moving, exciting and at the highest artistic level.Anyone who thinks that recitative is just of the ‘secco’ variety that you find in opera or in a Handel oratorio need not be concerned. These recits and these arias and cantatas are dramatic and intensely expressive with regular harmony changes, vivid word painting and opulent instrumental support. They are, the booklet reminds us, “extravagant arias”. Let’s take one special example by Marco Marazzoli, which takes the subject of the Lamento d’Armida and is set for mezzo and continuo. Armida is a Muslim in love with a Christian who sails away without her. Her anger is played out in two sections more like an arioso. The continuo is strongly, even violently played to emphasise certain points of the text. For example the opening “Whither are you fleeing, cruel one” and again later “Go away wicked man … and may heaven and the waves and the wind….. arm themselves with a dark shroud”. She then changes her mood and there follows a contrast. This takes the form of a gentle aria in compound time to describe the gently rolling waves for “Depart under favourable skies may the wind assist you and may the waves be calm”. Finally there is an instrumental postlude. I can’t help but wonder what the singer does during this final section.I have never heard accompanying continuo played so dramatically or for that matter such committed singing in this repertoire. These are dramatized performances. Not only have these singers and players brought this forgotten music to light they are performing it surely as it must have been done four hundred years ago: to move the audience to tears and to bring the story to life. I must single out Baka for praise but do also listen to Nadine Balbeisi in Rossi’s equally passion-ridden Lamento Zaida.The sufferings of these mythical women mentioned above are as nothing in comparison to those of the Virgin Mary at the foot of the cross. This is reflected in the anonymous A piè del sanunoso tronco, sung equally exquisitely by Samuel Boden. The text is by no less than Antonio Barberini himself. At the end we are told that the Virgin, having accused her son of being the source of her torture, “fell senseless to the ground” just as you see in many Renaissance paintings.The sufferings of Mary Magdalene are represented in the last piece by the remarkable and iconic Domenico Mazzocchi in his Lagrime amare.This CD is beautifully recorded and the booklet comes with complete texts, performers’ biographies and some photographs, also two essays by Erin Headley. The first goes through the composers and the background to the pieces. The second, at the back, is entitled ‘Enharmonic Exotica’ in which Headley discusses some of the period’s instrumental oddities like the lirone and the even more bizarre tuning methods found and heard in the Mazzocchi ‘Lagrime’. Ideal really.Gary Higginson Music Web Internationalthis disc is another gemI reviewed the first two discs, and I was impressed by the choice of repertoire and the performances. It is no different this time: this disc is another gem. The music can't fail to impress. The composers knew how to set a text and to express its emotions in a most evocative way, using the various tools they had at their disposal to maximum effect. For any performance it is absolutely necessary to master the art of recitar cantando, speechlike singing, because in these monodic pieces the rhythm of the music is subservient to that of the text. Only here and there do we find more lyrical episodes, pointing in the direction of the aria which would become more important towards the end of the 17th century. The singers of Atalante fully live up to the requirements. Christian Immler gives a powerful account of the monologue of Nero (Stradella), Nadine Balbeisi convincingly personifies Zaida (Rossi), and Theodora Baka is excellent as Armida. Katherine Watson delivers an incisive performance of Lagrime amare, also about Jesus' passion, whereas Samuel Boden gives a sensitive interpretation of A piè del sanguinoso tronco. More important than the singers' technical skills is the ability to communicate the emotional content, and that is exactly this disc's main asset. The booklet announces the fourth disc in this series which will be called Lamento di David. I am very much looking forward to itJohan van Veen Music Web Internationalstylistically informed, and breathes this passionate music as though it were fresh and aliveReliquie di Roma is very much a play on words. “Relics of Rome” summons up images of the architecture of the Roman Republic and subsequent Empire, but here it is taken to mean the music played in the 17th-century academies formed in the capitol of the Papal States. It was a time of rediscovery, of Arabic medicine and mathematics, Neo-Platonist theories of the soul, and planetary affinities. It was also a time of artistic experimentation in music, spurred on by studies into Attic Greek modes, with new forms, instruments, and tonal relationships. The Italian States were a trade nexus for Asian, African, and European goods, as well as the center of the one of the world’s most powerful religions, all of which lent a financial and artistic splendor to the many courts of its secular and sacred rulers. This album provides an attractive sampling of the works that would have been heard at these rulers’ academies (and in a few instances, still exist in manuscripts in the Vatican library). Some of it, such as Luigi Rossi’s Mortale, che pensi? and Stradella’s L’incendio di Roma , look back stylistically to the beginning of the century, recalling either Monteverdi’s madrigals or the fluid, ever-shifting expressiveness of the newly developed recitative, with its ability to mirror shifts of emotional degrees. Other pieces are more experimental, such as Marazzoli’s Lagrime amare , its 19-tone octave allowing for pure thirds. (Similar developments were mirrored in some contemporary instruments, of which a few survive, such as an enharmonic virginal by Francesco Poggio currently in the Rodger Mirrey Collection at the University of Edinburgh. It can be heard in a toccata by Michelangelo Rossi on Delphian 34039.) His lament of the Magdalene is striking, its unusual harmonic progressions embedded for dramatic effect next to stretches of more conventional ones, in a monophonic texture. Erin Headley, who formed Atalante in 2007, did so initially to secure visibility for the repertoire of the lirone. Aside from a few instrumental selections, however, this recording emphasizes vocals, often with fairly simple accompaniment. Five of the six singers receive enough space to prove themselves both technical and expressive masters of this material—by my reckoning, Nadine Balbeisi in Rossi’s Lamento di Zaida and Theodora Baka in Marazzoli’s Lamento d’Armida , in particular. The nine instrumentalists, mostly strings, bowed and plucked, come into their own on four pieces where they display great purity and balance of tone. Here, Bojan Čičić’s playing in Leone’s Sonata XXIX is especially to be commended for its beauty and elastic phrasing. Though not featured, Headley’s influence can be felt everywhere as director, in her ensemble that is stylistically informed, and breathes this passionate music as though it were fresh and alive—which in Atalante’s hands and voices, it definitely is. Strongly recommended. Barry Brenesal FANFARE…another revelatory and inspiring release by Erin Headley, and AtalanteA discerning reviewer gave the first volume of this series by Erin Headley's ensemble Atalante an IRR Outstanding award in April 2012, praising its interesting repertory -mid-seventeenth-century Italian laments by various composers - fascinating instrumental textures and ravishing singing. The lament was a favoured form of composition in the generations from Monteverdi (who practically invented the genre) to Purcell (who wrote perhaps the most famous in Dido and Aeneas). Historical, literary, religious, and even contemporary figures were made the subject of such laments. On this edition, the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, two different Muslim women and the Emperor Nero appear -though Nero's song, composed by Alessandro Stradella, is less a lament than a protracted gloat as he watches Rome burn. Many of the texts were written by members of the noble and nepotistic Barberini family and their circle. Throughout the series may be heard the distinctive sound of the lirone, a Renaissance string instrument that had a brief golden age in seventeenth-century Italy. Headley is its leading modern exponent…As ever with Atalante, the instrumental contribution is rich, sonorous and uniformly well played. Alongside the gentle buzz of the lirone, can be heard viols of various sizes, harpsichord, chitarrone, double harp and violin - the effect is sumptuous throughout. Headley contributes two highly informative essays and the booklet includes full texts and translations by the singer and scholar Candace Smith. The crystal-clear recording was made far from the Barberinis' Baroque palaces in the handsomely austere late-Georgian church of St John at Hackney.…another revelatory and inspiring release by Erin Headley, and Atalante. Andrew O'Connor International Record Reviewexquisitely recorded performances by the singers and players of AtalanteThis beautiful CD, with exquisitely recorded performances by the singers and players of Atalante directed by Erin Headley, makes an irresistible case for the wider dissemination of this very fine music. In addition to the lovely and dramatic singing there is some superb viol playing, ... With the generous acoustic of St John’s Hackney, we are transported to a baroque Roman Academy to enjoy some of the most refined music of the period as did the great Roman aristocratic families of the time.D James Ross Early Music Review
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