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1.	Homo fugit velut umbra (Passacaglia della Vita)
2.	Augellin
3.	Sinfonia
4.	Invan lusinghi
5.	Altri ancor fugga
6.	Canzona detta La Pozza
7.	T'amai gran tempo
8.	A che più l'arco tendere
9.	Alla guerra d'amor
10.	Balletto delle Virtu
11.	Canta la cicaleta
12.	Dirindin
13.	Quando Rinaldo
14.	Quest'Acqua
15.	Amarilli, deh! vieni

Johannette Zomer (soprano), 
Stephan Van Dyck (tenor), 
Alain Buet (bass), 
Marco Beasley (tenor), 
Christina Pluhar (direction, harp, theorbo, guitar), 
Eero Palviainen (archlute, guitar), 
Charles Edouard Fantin (theorbo, lute, guitar), 
Elisabeth Seitz (psalterion), 
Paulina Van Laarhoven (lirone, violone), 
Lorenzo Colitto, Mira Glodeanu (violins), 
William Dongois (cornet), 
Michèle Claude (percussions).

Christina Pluhar – conductor


So who was Stefano Landi? Well, it depends what you read. To the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians he is 'One of the most important figures in the early history of opera and a leading Roman composer of his day'. But this recording focuses on another, less public side of Landi's art, the more personal books of arias (Libri di Arie). It looks into Landi's 'double life, the reverse side of life at court and its struggle for we can discover in Stefano Landi's Libri di Arie pieces that on closer inspection lead the way into a universe all his own. These arias and villanellas, composed by a singer and continuo player, a rhetorician and philosopher, who accompanied his own songs on the harp or the Spanish guitar, constitute a miniature art form of concentrated perfection'.

This might sound like special pleading for a minor figure in Italian musical history, but I defy you not to warm to their cause as you listen to this enchanting cd.

The liner notes establish a useful human context for Landi's music: Landi was an alto in the papal choir, job-sharing with Grigorio Allegri, and one of the many musical employees of the wealthy and influential Barberini family. This meant he was surrounded by some of the finest artistic talent in Italy all gathered in the Barberini's unheated servants' quarters, all competing for the recognition, attention and exposure that would guarantee them a future.

This musical world behind the notes is the hidden universe of the shadows that gives the disc its title: Homo fugit velut umbra - man flees like a shadow - taken from the anonymous title track. After you've heard it, you're hooked; the performers breathe new life into Landi's musical world, with voices that seem to understand every nuance of the things about which they sing. The instrumental accompaniment is improvisatory, earthy and ingenious: lute, theorbo, guitar and harp continuo, plus up to a trio of violins, viola da gamba, a cornet and a gentle sprinkling of percussion.

There's imitative entertainment: Augellin (the little songbird) and Canta la cicaletta (the little cicada sings); opera-in-miniature (Quando Rinaldo invitto Armida abbandono); and songs of love disappointed, tortured and betrayed. This is punctuated with instrumental numbers that heighten the beauty of the singing around them. It all feels natural and unforced, yet this is truly sophisticated entertainment.

Style triumphs over content in a couple of ways: the cd is so keen on establishing context for the music it forgets to tell us which singers are which. There's such beautiful work from the tenors, Marco Beasley and Stephan van Dyck, it's almost insulting not to attribute the voices to the songs. Also, Landi's arie are taken from a number of sources, and we are not told which works are from where.

That apart, congratulations to Christina Pluhar, her singers and L'Arpeggiata, for illuminating the life of a little-known Italian master in such a beautifully rewarding way. The Paris-based label Alpha is a relative newcomer, but this joined-up contextual approach seems to be one of their main goals, as well as using interesting but not necessarily well-established artists and ensembles. I'll be keeping an eye on any future releases of theirs that come my way; this is one of the most pleasurable early music releases I've heard in an age. --- John Armstrong,



]]> (bluesever) Landi Stefano Thu, 09 Feb 2012 09:55:57 +0000
Stefano Landi - Il Sant'Alessio (1996) Stefano Landi - Il Sant'Alessio (1996)

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Il Sant'Alessio - Disque : 01

Primeiro Ato
01. Sinfonia
02. Chiaro Giorno Lieta Sorte
03. Ne Fur Solo I Miei Figli
04. Gia Fastosa Guerriera
05. Dopo Tant'anni Al Fine
06. Era La Notte
07. Sopra Salde Colonne
08. Se L'hore Volano						play
09. Poca Voglia Di Far Bene
10. Ma Cola Mesto
11. Si Disserrino
12. Dalla Notte Profonda
13. Deh Raffrenate
14. Amara, Invida Notte
15. Hoime Quel Sospirar
16. Dovunque Stassi
17. Con Miserabil Sorte
18. La Piu Bella Che Sia
Segundo Ato
19. Sinfonia
20. O Te Felice
21. Propitia Arride
22. A Dio Tebro
23. Ma Che Piu Tardo
24. Hor Non Mi Manchi Il Ciel

Il Sant'Alessio - Disque : 02

01. Alessio Che Farai?
02. Humil Servo
03. Alessio, Alessio, A Me Rivolgi Il Guardo
04. O Morte Gradita
05. Gia Con Desir Costante
06. Io Di Vera Pieta Madre
07. Quel, Che Sospirano
08. Tal, Hor Che Men S'attende
09. Rassereniamo Il Cor Con Lieti Auspici
10. Il Ciel Pietoso
Terceiro Ato
11. Sinfonia
12. Mal Si Resiste A Fermo Core
13. Dovunque Io Volgo Il Ciglio
14. Eccomi Pronto, Ascolta
15. Ohime Ch'un' Hora Dola'
16. O Mia Cieca Follia
17. O Luci Voi										play
18. Foglio, Ch'in Te Racchiudi
19. O Pianti, O Dogli Estreme
20. Lasciate Il Pianto
21. O Mia Consorte
22. Vive Alessio
23. Il Ciel Vagheggia
24. Godi Pur Alma Gradita

Sant'Alessio - Patricia Petibon - Soprano
Sposa - Sophie Marin-Degor - Soprano
Madre - Cécile Eloir - Mezzo Soprano
Eufemiano - Nicolas Rivenq - Barítono
Demonio - Clive Bayley - Baixo
Curtio - Mhairi Lawson - Soprano
Martio - Steve Dugardin - Contratenor
Nutrice - Katalin Károlyi - Mezzo Soprano
Adrasto - Christopher Josey - Tenor
Roma, Religione - Maryseult Wieczorek - Soprano
Nuntio - Armand Gavriilidès - Contratenor
Angelo - Stéphanie Révidat - Soprano
Uno del Choro - Bertrand Bontoux – Baixo

William Christie – conductor, 1996


Il Sant'Alessio was written in 1631, and thus falls into the same category as Luigi Rossi or Monteverdi. It subject is religious and it was produced as part of the current anti-reformation movement, meant to inspire Catholic pride and unity. It tells the story of St. Alexis, son of a Roman nobleman, who in embracing Christianity forsook his pagan family and lived underneath the front stairs of his own home, unknown to his relatives. The Saint's harassment by scornful Romans, his temptation by the devil, and the anguish of his loving family, who do not know what has happened to him, make this an interesting departure from early opera's normal mythological subject matter. Musically, the style is austere, dominated by recitative, with sparse accompaniment, though it is relieved by lovely ritornelli, choruses, and simple, heartfelt arias (Alessio's "O morte gradita" is particularly moving). Christie's conducting and singers are as flawless as always (Patricia Petibon has proven herself in Handel, Mozart, Delibes, and she is as beautiful as always here). The opera's sparseness and intensity may well be difficult for listeners unused to this style, and something like Christie's single-disc recordings of L. Rossi oratorios would be a better introduction to early 17th century vocal music; but for those who know they have an interest in the period, this recording is highly recommended. --- andrew j frishman (Magdalena, New Mexico)


Sant'Alessio is an opera in three acts composed by Stefano Landi in 1631 with a libretto by Giulio Rospigliosi. Sant'Alessio was the first opera to be written on a historical subject. It describes the inner life of fifth-century Saint Alexis. The work broke new ground with a psychological characterization of a type that was new to opera. It also contains interspersed comic scenes that are anachronistically drawn from the contemporary life of Rome in the 17th century.

The first performance of the opera is believed to have taken place at the Palazzo Barberini ai Giubbonari, Rome, on 2 March 1631. A further performance was given at the inauguration of the theatre at the Palazzo Barberini alle Quattro Fontane on 21 February 1632.

The story of the opera begins with Saint Alexis, who has embraced a life of holy poverty, returning from the Holy Land as a beggar to his father's house in Rome. He keeps his identity a secret, even when his wife and mother decide to travel in search of him. He resists the temptations offered by the Devil, with the help of an angel. He dies in the poverty he has chosen, under the steps of his father's house, his identity revealed in a letter he holds as he dies.

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]]> (bluesever) Landi Stefano Fri, 20 Jan 2012 10:05:40 +0000
Stefano Landi - La Morte d'Orfeo Stefano Landi - La Morte d'Orfeo

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1. Atto I
2. Atto II
3. Atto III
4. Atto IV
5. Atto V

Orfeo - John Elwes - tenor
Euridice - Nisa – Euretto - Jahanna Koslowsky - soprano
Teti, regina del mare - Lincastro - Euretto - Pastore – Ecco - Michael Chance - contratenor
Aurora - Calliope, madre d'Orfeo – Pastre - Myra Kroese - contralto
Mercurio nel cielo - Fileno, pastor nunzio – Pastore - Wilfrid Jochens - tenor
Apolline del cielo – Ireno - Nico Van der Meel - tenor
Ebro fiume - Furore – Caronte - Harry Van der Kamp - bass
Fato nel cielo - Uno delli Dei - Giove nel cielo - Lieven Deroo – bass

Vocal Ensemble Currende
Ensemble Tragicomedia
Stephen Stubbs – director


The tiny Belgian independent label Accent specializes in period instrument performances from the Low Countries, and in 1987 recorded this Dutch/English production of Stefano Landi's "Tragicomedia pastorale" at the St. Gilles Church in Brugges, Belgium. In order to appreciate the value of this disc, you have to know something of the background: The Orpheus legend was one of the best-loved subjects for early opera at the beginning of the 17th century. The most famous version was written by Alessandro Striggio and set to music by Claudio Monteverdi at Mantua, but there were other versions around at the same time by lesser known composers such as Peri and Caccini. Stefano Landi, who was born in Rome but moved as a young man to Padua, turned to this legendary story in 1619, but instead of re-working the old story about the death of Euridice, he opted to compose an opera on the sequel, the death of Orpheus at the hand of the Maenads, servants of Bacchus, who were incited to murder him by Bacchus himself because he had not invited this god of wine and surfeiting to his birthday party!

In order to turn this story into a five-act opera, the librettist Alessandro Matthei introduces a total of over thirty mythical figures including not only gods and heavenly messengers, shepherds and satyrs, but also winds and a river - these last have quite extensive sung parts! This is very different from Monteverdi's version. As far as the composition itself goes, it consists, like Monteverdi's later operas, almost exclusively of recitative, interrupted occasionally by duets, terzets or choral interludes. The musical background is provided mainly by a continuo force of organ, lirone, harp and lute, occasionally complemented by violins or cornets.

Director Stephen Stubbs, who also plays the chitarrone (a type of guitar), has tried to create a "historical" performance, although in fact it is doubtful whether La Morte d'Orfeo was ever performed during the composer's lifetime. This means that he not only uses historical instruments but also that his singers are, with two exceptions, all male, a total of ten roles being played by the two star countertenors David Cordier and Michael Chance. If you don't like very high male voices (Cordier could be taken for a soprano!), avoid this CD-box like the plague! But if you enjoy historically "authentic" singing, then there is much to enjoy here: Cordier and Chance were, at the time of the recording, coryphaei of countertenor.

Of course, the fact that practically all the singers except John Elwes as Orpheus have to sing up to five parts makes pretty confusing listening, and I found it necessary to refer constantly to the booklet. Elwes himself sings well, but his performance seems to me to be overshadowed by that of the two countertenors and by bass Harry Van der Kamp, whose performance as the River Hebros, as Furore and, in particular, as Charon in the underworld left a lasting impression. The other singers all do well without being particularly outstanding; Johanna Koslowsky has some poignant moments, especially in the last act where she plays the shade of Euridice, who has lost all memory of Orpheus. Of course, this is historical performance practice, so there is practically no vibrato to be heard anywhere. The instruments sound wonderful, and there is some excellent cornet playing by Bruce Dickey and Doron David Sherwin in the first act.

Accent makes no attempt to facilitate access to this more or less unknown work. The booklet contains a helpful, but extremely brief introduction by Professor Silke Leopold, a synopsis of the action that reduces whole acts to two sentences, and the libretto in 17th century Italian only without any attempts at translation. It should perhaps also be added that the times stated for the various tracks are often unreliable, making it impossible for me to give the production anything but an average evaluation. The sound, too, is not anything to write home about - adequate, yes, but the voices are often muffled, and there is too much echoing in the empty church recording venue.

But there is, as far as I know, no rival recording, so if you are interested in early 17th century opera or in the history of the musical development of the Orpheus legend, you should go for this CD-box despite its limitations. --- Leslie Richford (Selsingen, Lower Saxony)



]]> (bluesever) Landi Stefano Wed, 25 Jan 2012 09:55:18 +0000