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Friday, March 19, 2010

Some Nice Discoveries from the Baroque!

Johann Adolf HASSE (1699-1783)
Cantatas, Volume I

Come l’ape di fiore in fiore [4:28]
Il nome [15:21]
Sonata a tre in e minor for two flutes and basso continuo, Op. 3, No. 2 [8:49]
Chieggio ai gigli ed alle rose [10:03]
Sonata a tre in D, Op. 3 for two flutes and basso continuo, No. 3 [7:38]
E ver, mia Fille, e vero [12:46]
Muta e l’imago dell’idolo amato [4:48]

Lia Serafini (soprano)
Gabriella Martellacci (contralto)
Accademia del Ricercare
Pietro Busca

Recorded at Ex Salone Comunale, Verolergo, Italy, 17, 18 & 24 February, 2008.


Johann Adolf Hasse, although German born, spent the bulk of his career in Italy, studied with the renowned Alessandro Scarlatti, spoke only Italian and composed vocal music exclusively in his adopted language, or in the case of sacred music, Latin. Although relegated to the sidelines in modern days, he was greatly respected in his day. Mozart held him in the same lofty company as Handel, and aspired to be himself remembered in such as league as Hasse.

Much of the vocal music presented on this elegant program has never been recorded before, and we have the Accademia del Ricercare to thank for bringing such engaging music back to life. Two fine soloists, soprano Lia Serafini and contralto Gabriella Martellacci alternate to present rich performances of arias and cantatas meant to entertain and impress guests in small intimate gatherings in the home. How lovely it is to hear a female contralto sing these lovely melodies instead of having to endure yet another failed baritone in the guise of a countertenor. (Note to conductors: unless you can get a Mark Crayton or a David Daniels, use girls!)

Hasse favored flutes as accompanying instruments but in keeping with common Baroque practice, any handy melodic instrument could be substituted, and we get superb playing from some outstanding Italian instrumentalists in both the wind and string sections. Of particular merit are the two dreamily charming trio sonatas from Op, 3, which are delivered with both serene airiness and sprightly rhythmic vitality.

Both vocal soloists deliver superb performances. Ms. Serafini’s light and radiant soprano is beautifully contrasted by Ms. Martellacci’s warm yet ever-clear contralto. Both ladies sing with distinct enunciation making the texts easy to understand. Both use ornamentation with ease, employing just enough to make things interesting without it getting in the way of the composer’s lilting melodies.

Kudos go to Brilliant Classics for joining Naxos and Arte Nova in bringing forth fascinating recordings at such a budget price. Program notes are informative and of just enough length to avoid being too academic or tiresome. Texts are provided, but sadly are presented only in the original language. If Brilliant can afford to translate the program note into three languages, why not the texts? Ahem!

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