Naïve Records have struck gold with this stunning collection of early music songs. With music from Monteverdi, Handel, Scarlatti and others, this CD has the perfect combination of sublime, tender phrases with fast, exhilarating coloratura. Performing the works are the renowned early music specialists Sonia Prina (contralto) and Roberta Invernizzi (soprano). Both women are known for their intelligent and well researched performances, and for their formidable vocal athleticism. Accompanying them are the Ensemble Claudiana, lead by Luca Pianca, who will be accompanying Sonia Prina at her Wigmore Hall concert on 30th Dec.
The CD is dominated by the giant figure of Monteverdi. The opening duet, "Interrotte Speranze" is from the Seventh Book of Madrigals published in 1619. The opening unison phrase by Invernizzi and Prina, is followed by a sinuous, snake-like intertwining of voices, as the soprano and the contralto dance around each other in close harmony. The decision to let Prina’s penultimate “mio” hang in the air, pausing before Invernizzi’s entrance on the final phrase, adds powerfully to the drama of the piece.
Another piece from the Seventh Book of Madrigals is “Ohimè, dov’è il mio ben” and “vorrei bacarti”. “Ohimè, dov’è il mio ben” is split into four parts. The end of the first section sees Prina’s contralto scored above Invernizzi’s soprano, adding an interesting texture. In the third section, Invernizzi floats a gorgeous pianissimo Eb5 on the phrase “in me più che’l”, while the final section saw Prina descend to rock solid G3 on the word “morte”.
The highlight of the CD is the magnificent “Pur ti Miro”, the closing duet from Monteverdi’s operaL’incoronazione di Poppea. In the A section, Prina and Invernizzi are the epitome of sensual tenderness, their voices dancing playfully and skilfully through Monteverdi’s tender music. Check out the immaculate semitone dissonance on the phrase “più non peno/più non moro”.
"Mentre vaga Angioletta" comes from Monteverdi’s Eighth Book of Madrigals. After an extended solo entrance by Prina, she and Invernizzi alternate between exquisitely precise coloratura, and haunting chromatic lines reminiscent of Purcell. The sublime moment of the piece comes on the phrase “mormorando in basso, e mobil suono” as Prina and Invernizzi sing in close harmony, crossing parts every second note. The execution of the broken coloratura on the phrase “hor la raffrena” is again testament to the skill of the two performers.
The other “big gun” on the CD is Handel, represented with two duets. “Tanti strali”, sees Prina exercise her wonderful lower register, with a couple of phrases in the third section lying almost exclusively below the stave. The middle section of the duet is indicative of Handel’s melodic and harmonic genius, with several spine-tingling suspensions, and a novel resolution on the words “arsa e consunta”. The interplay between Prina and Invernizzi is perfectly measured, with Invernizzi producing several beautiful highpianissimi.
The CD also features one aria each by Marcello, Lotti, and Durnate, and a sonata by Domenico Scarlatti. Luca Pianca and the Ensemble Claudiana are exemplary throughout the recording. Pianca’s well researched and intuitive direction brings out the best in all the performers, and brings to the fore aspects of the two major composers which would otherwise have been lost. His use of dynamics to emphasise certain words and structural parts of the compositional texture is genius, and works particularly well given the “stripped down” quality of the accompaniment. Amore e morte dell’amore is a "must have" this summer.