SN 8801


Nella Anfuso Cantatrice

Terence Waterhouse Liuto

  1. Giacomo CARISSIMI (1605-1674) - [16'00]
    Mesto in sen d'un antro ombroso

  2. Marco MARAZZOLI (1619-1662) - [2'48]
    Pigliatevi gusto

  3. Luigi ROSSI (1598-1653) - [12'45]
    Lamento della Regina di Svetia

  1. Francesco Antonio TENAGLIA (XVII sec.) - [4'54]
    Se fosse così

Exempla - I Pars - download mp3 731 KB 

  1. Giacomo CARISSIMI (1605-1674) - [9'57]
    Non chiede altro che vita

Exempla - I Pars - download mp3 1798 KB 


"You have been made for Rome and Rome has been made for you" Urban VIII (1623-1644 alias Maffeo Barberini) said to Bernini and this phrase underlines the close cultural and aesthetic ties which link Bernini to the Eternal City rather like an umbilical cord; the City (Urbs) which after having enriched the world with its civilisation for centuries, at the beginning of the seventeenth century prepares, once more, to offer the grandiosity and the magnificence of a style which posterity will to refer as "baroque". Indeed it will be the Florentine Pope Urban VIII who will give free rein to Roman life and to Bernini's genius by transforming Rome into the baroque city "par excellence": "... a broader space was opened up in Rome in that most celebrated palace in the world to the happy flights of genius of Gian Lorenzo" (F. Balducci, "Vita del Cav. G.L. Bernini", Firenze, 1682) (F. Balducci, "The life of Cavalier G.L Bernini", Florence, 1682).  

Bernini was profoundly influenced by the style of Carracci, Reni, Raphael and Michelangelo and above all by the lyricism of the classical and ancient works of art on display in the Vatican where for a period of three years he remained «locked from dawn till the "Ave Maria" to study them; in front of the Hercules, Venus and Laocoon he shouted back to his father who called him to assist him: "let me stay here for I have fallen in love"».

Admired and feted throughout Europe (with the exception of France where during his séjour in 1665 his forms and shapes were deemed to be "bizarre lacking any sense of beautiful and sound architecture") Bernini brought about a renewal in the scuplture and the architecture of his era (in France too) incorporating a strong charge of expression which represent the "emotions" (the "affetti"), the expression of passions which rely on the contrast in light and shade from which their expressive force is derived.

It is interesting to note the Italian origin of the French term "bizarre "'. this is used in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries to indicate a fiery, impetuous, that is to say irascible spirit. For example one sees in Dante: " And the Florentine, a bizarre spirit turned his teeth upon himself" (Inferno, Canto VIII) and in Boccaccio «we Florentines consider those who suddenly and for the slightest reason fly into a rage and cannot be persuaded to calm down for any reason whatsoever as "bizarre"». The term "bizarre" far from having its present meaning which appears rather to indicate a certain degree of formal extravagance, but its original meaning clearly concerns expressive power.

Indeed the "Vocabolario della Crusca" (Venice, 1679) defines Bizzarro as "hot-tempered, irascible, quick to anger". The meaning given by Sebastien de Brossard in his "Dictionnaire de musique" (Paris, 1703) is interesting "Bizzarro, ou con bizzarria, veut dire (...) tantot vite, tantot lentement, tantot fort, tantot doucement etc. selon la fantaisie du Compositeur  ( Bizzarro or "con bizzaria" signifies now quickly, now slowly, now loudly now sweetly etc. according to the fantasy of the Composer)".

As for the term "Baroque ", Montaigne was using the word in the sense of "bizarre" as early as the sixteenth century. But apart from any consideration regarding the etymology of the word "baroque" which some maintain is derived from "barocco" (a syllogistic term) others maintain that it has its derivation from "barroco" (a Portuguese word indicating an irregular shaped pearl) yet still others maintain its derivation from the generally accepted Italian meaning of the word " bizzarro" which was already used in France in 1533 and in Spain in 1569, the word took on a meeting at a certain point in time relating to the figurative arts and architecture of a style characterised by a great vivacity, power and expressive virtuosity. It is therefore quite logical that this style which encapsulates the essential themes of contestation and revolt which can even be violent in its exuberant energy (hence the sense of the Italian "bizzarre" = litigious/quarrelsome) should have been born in Rome as a reaction to the anti-roman nature of the Reformation.

Looking at documents which are extant the same terminology is also valid for the musical arts characterised by exasperated passions and by an expressiveness which great virtuosity puts into focus, just as happens in the figurative arts and in architecture. And it is with these realisations that the Renaissance truly concludes and exalts the highest significance of its expression; these results can only be obtained with a technical preparation to the highest standard.

It is therefore thanks to Bernini, Corelli and to Carissimi that the roman "baroque", the roman "bizarre" conquers the whole of Europe !

The magnificence and the richness of a concert in Rome at this period (in 1639) are well attested and described by André Maugars in his " Réponse faite a un curieux sur le sentiment de la musique d'ltalie" as we learn from this telling extract: "... une description du plus celebre et du plus excellent concert que j'aye ouy dans Rome (...) Tantost un dessus du premier choeur faisoit un recit, puis celui du 3ème, du 4ème et du 10ème respondoit. Quelquefois ils chantoient deux, trois, quatre et cinq voix ensemble de differents choeurs (...). Tantost deux choeurs se battoient  l' un contre  l' autre, puis deux autres respondoient (...) ; et au Gloria Patri, tous les dix choeurs reprenaient ensemble".

We possess a rich documentation on concerts held in Rome at this time, therefore I will restrict myself to choosing only a few passages which will illustrate "ad abundantiam" the spirit which animated musical art in Italy in the seventeenth century. For example we know that on 31 March 1689 at Rome in the Palace of Cardinal Pamphilj, the present Palazzo Doria Pamphilj in Piazza Navona, Arcangelo Corelli conducted a performance of the Oratorio "Beatrice d' Este " having at his disposal a 100 piece orchestra arranged on two sides of the concert room - respectively with 80 musicians on one side and 20 on the other, producing what amounted to a stereophonic effect, "ante litteram". Corelli played lead violin, the two Gasparini brothers played the two harpsicords and Bernardo Pasquini played the organ. From the payment made to the musicians for the performance and this is even more surprising, we learn that the largest part of the orchestra consisted of 17 violas, 10 double-basses with 40 violins and ten viols. Arcangelo Galli was a true specialist in performances of this kind. In 1687 in an "Academy of Music" in the Palace of Queen Christina of Sweden he conducted an orchestra of 150 musicians no less! This prompts us to ask what then is real "baroque" music presented to us by contemporary musicians on contemporary discs and records ! I have referred to stereophonic music - I would add that throughout the whole of the seventeenth century the "Roman Baroque " had a taste for "stereophonic" music. In a letter dated Rome, Mascardi, 1685, ("a letter written by Signor Antimo Liberati in reply to one from Signor Ovidio Persapegi..." relates how performances in the Basilica of St Peter's in which choirs and musicians were divided up into groups of 20 or 40 and placed in different parts of the Basilica, even in the dome in order to achieve effects which we today would call stereophonic.

In another document dated 1640, "Della musica dell'età nostra... " Pietro Della Valle informs us of another performance again in the St Peter's of 16 choirs with one choir producing an echo effect in the dome! Della Valle's "Discorso " is a particularly important document on musical life in Rome towards the end of the seventeenth century. Regarding the musical style of his day and the enormous differences to that of previous eras Della Valle writes "... our maestros rather than using subtle artifices and devices play on affections and graces and on the lively expression of the senses to that which is sung; and that is what truly enraptures and makes us go into ecstasy. They have learned how to avail themselves even of discordant voices to produce excellent effects and from the same dissonances they have learned how to produce very melodious concerts, according to the sayings of that most learned and most wise man Quintilian who stated that in order to produce good art one must know (observe) the rules of art and he who does not know these rules is indeed very ignorant, but the one who at times does not dare occasionally to break these rules in order to improve achieves and knows even less... ".

After having developed his dissertation on vocal and instrumental performances, on the artistic and technical qualities of musicians and singers and after having cited many performers, Della Valle begins his section on voices and comments : "... But leaving aside other voices, to concentrate a little on sopranos who are the greatest embellishment of music you cannot compare the falsetti of those times with the natural sopranos and castrati which we have in such great abundance in our own day (...) the most we could hope to do then was to have and train a good young boy; but by the time they had begun to learn something their voices would break (...). The sopranos of today are responsible and mature and are technically very well prepared and sing with grace, with taste and with true flair; adopting expressions of tenderness they enrapture their audiences (...) and over and above the castrati where in the past were the excellent female singers that we can boast of today ?"

At this point Della Valle begins to compile a long list of names: Giulia or Lolla, Vittoria, Ippolita, Leonora and Caterina, Adriana, Sofonisba, Cammilluccia, Lucrezia Moretti, Laudomia del Muti, the Campane and the Valeri sisters up to Cecchina, alias Francesca Caccini, the only Florentine in a list of Roman singers. He continues with the most prestigious names of Nuns in Roman Convents. All these "natural Sopranos " in the natural female octave range, either Castrati or Ladies (including the Nuns) knew their art exquisitely well "...the art of singing loudly or softly; of increasing and augmenting the voice little by little and of making it fade away gracefully, of the expression of tender feeling and emotion, of the interpretation of the words being sung (the lyrics) and their meaning in a wise manner; knowing how to make the voice appear happy or knowing how to make it sad and melancholy; how to make it piteous or bold as the situation dictates" (See P. Della Valle, op.cit.).

Della Valle's text is very important not only for learning about and understanding musical life in Rome in the seventeenth century but also for the history of Italian vocal music: one witnesses in the middle of the sixteenth century the elimination of "falsettos" and of "pueri cantores" (even if these fall into the category of natural voices) in church music; this occurs for reasons of expressiveness and of virtuosity (virtuosity which is only possible with the fusion of the two registers- see Monteverdi's letter of 1627)! Among the names of the female singers recalled by Della Valle one can recognise the names of a few celebrated singers mentioned in other documents: Vittoria (Archilei), Adriana (Basile, admired by Monteverdi), Leonora (Baroni the daughter of Adriana Baroni who was invited by Mazzarin to the French Court who bewildered the French with the new declaimed style of the Italians!).

Italy which has created all musical forms is also the creator at the beginning of the seventeenth century of the Cantata. Initially any piece of vocal music which was "meant to be sung " was given this name and before assuming a well defined genre being accorded a precise definition at the end of the century as an Aria with a Da Capo, during the seventeenth century it takes on different forms : strophic (as we find for example in Alessandro Grandi -1620 - or in Carlo Milanuzzi - 1635) composed as an alternation of a Recitative and Aria, Aria with a section with the function of a Ritornello etc.. Towards the end of the seventeenth century we find all these different forms of cantata in Italy and above all, in Rome. All musicians of the day composed cantatas of various types and among the great we find the greatest of them all, the Roman: Giacomo Carissimi. It is with him and his pupils among who number the Germans Johann Karl von Kerll and Johan Philipp Kriger and the Frenchman Marc Antoine Charpentier, that the Italian Cantata (and the Oratorio, another Roman genre which will enjoy great popularity) will spread across the whole of Europe.

Another of Carissimi's pupils, Christoph Bernhard, in his opera "Von der Singer-Kunst oder Manier", summarises the aesthetics and the style of Italian vocal music of the period. Bernhard describes various genres : "Contrapunctus", the "Aequalis" the "Inequalis", the "Gravis" (Stilus antiquus) and the "Luxurians" (Stilus modernus), the "Communis" and the "Comicus" (where the Gravis and the Luxurius correspond to Monteverdi's "Prima Pratica" and the "Seconda Pratica"); moreover he explains what the three methods or styles of singing consist of :

"Cantar alla Romana " singing in the Roman Style, "Cantar alla Napolitana " singing in the Neapolitan Style, and "Cantar alla Lombarda" singing in the Lombard Style which can also be referred to as "Cantar sodo" singing solidly, "Cantar affettuoso" singing tenderly or affectionately and "Cantar Passeggiato " ornamented singing.

This disc contains some examples of the enormous output of profane vocal music (Carissimi alone wrote more than 300 cantatas) of some of the most representative musicians of the Roman school towards the middle of the seventeenth century-musicians who for the most part had worked in the service of a great Patron, a member of the Barberini family. Cardinal Antonio Barberini.

The cantatas on the disc are of various genres with or without alternation of Recitative and Aria and of varying length (from the shortest by Marazzoli to the longest - by Carissimi and Luigi Rossi), written in a lie / tessitura which is rather high (with top notes) (this is very typical of Roman music of the period), with all the elements which characterise the "Stilus Luxurians" of which Bernhard says: "a great expression even to the point of exasperation , a passionate temperament beyond all measure, chromaticisms and dissonances of great boldness, the most subtle vocal effects linked to the pronunciation of the word, pregnant and with essentiality of expression which acquires a particular relief from the sobriety of the continual Bass (provided by the theorbo)".

An extraordinary example is afforded in the "Lamento della Regina di Svetia" (The Lament of the Queen of Sweden) by Rossi, a Cantata-Lament where the announcement of the death of the King of Sweden Gustave Adolph to Queen Eleanor, the anguish of the Queen culminating in her madness. Inspired by contemporary historical events which moved the whole of Europe, the Cantata was offered in homage by its author (Ottavio Castelli) to Cardinal Richelieu who was in Rome in 1641. If in the Rome of the Barberini, Leonora Baroni, worthy daughter of Adriana Basile, (was deemed to be the greatest interpreter of this genre of music the poet Milton who was in Rome at that period dedicated some poems to her), in our own age we have the fortune and the great pleasure of having Nella Anfuso who recreates a canto, a style and an expressive world which characterise that which we call "Baroque".

Annibale Gianuario