Among Gramophone Magazine's best recordings of 2022, Critic's choiche of OPERA NEWS, PRESTO Classical, Five Stars from BBC Music Magazine and Pizzicato...
"...Imaginatively planned, brilliantly executed, this is a disc guaranteed to give pleasure to any lover of the Italian Baroque with a sense of adventure."
Richard Wigmore - Gramophone
MARIA&MADDALENA - 2021
“Day and night, brunette and blonde, sacred and profane love, old and young... mother and prostitute:
the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene.
We grow up certain of their differences, comforted by that ancient story so familiar to us, of which we know every detail and every character.
But if we listened to their story through music, we could discover what makes them similar. Two women. Two women described as beautiful and strong, two women who were both young and who turned their lives upside down by making a choice: the choice to abandon themselves completely to an ideal, to their faith. Have you ever thought of a Magdalene who remains a slave to earthly pleasures? Could we ever imagine the Virgin graciously refusing the fulfilment of the prophecy of the angel Gabriel? "No, thanks... I'm good!"
The symbolic sacrifice of these two women is so deeply rooted in the imagination of all of us, whatever our religious denomination, that we almost leave it in the background, taking it for granted. And yet in song, even if rarely together on the same stage, they tell us about that choice, their fear, as well as the suffering and joy of their journey. Interpreting the Virgin means to experience at the same time the immeasurable joy of motherhood and the excruciating pain of her Son's foreboding death, with a lump in the throat and a broken voice; to sing Magdalene is to feel the tremor, the ecstasy of the soul that wants to free itself from the chains of sin even through suffering, in the joyful certainty of reaching a higher pleasure.
To be both is to be a woman who writes her own destiny accepting the consequences, living all the emotions without repentance, without regrets, with pride.
To be both is a teardrop of freedom.”
PROLOGUE - 2018
"Chi ben comincia è a metà dell'opera [Well begun is half done]", says an old Italian proverb.
The orchestra tunes in the pit.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome! The show is about to start, please turn off your mobile phones. We kindly remind you that it is forbidden to take
pictures. We wish you a pleasant evening. Meanwhile backstage, there is someone who mumbles his last vocalisations to check that everything is in place. A few words are exchanged with the stage manager and between colleagues: "in bocca al lupo, toi to toi, break a leg. Don't worry, you'll be great."
Suddenly the audience applauds as the conductor arrives in the pit, and the orchestra begins to play: the overture! With the heart racing, now is my moment!
The curtains open and there, La Musica strides ceremoniously across. the footboards, no, wait, it is The Art of Painting... no, Rome? Harmony, Tragedy, Venus, Iris, Cupid...ah, well: the Prologue!
The Prologue, this ubiquitous protagonist of 17th-century opera, the beginning before the beginning, a show of gratitude to any royalty in attendance, the prequel, the weather report, the ringmaster... a sort of baroque master of ceremonies.
The Prologue! It is a universe full of allegorical characters who take great pleasure in talking about themselves, their history and their importance, using the audience almost as a mirror to admire themselves. They are of a world apart from the story of the opera; however, it can start only after they leave the stage. They know what is going to happen, and how everything will end.
Sometimes they are there to offer us clues; sometimes they celebrate the wedding or the birth of the new heir to the throne; or they set the scene where the story will take place...paying special attention to the weather.
Singing the Prologue is a pure rush of adrenaline which sparks the energy that must last until the end, as even if it is the fourteenth show, to the audience it is always the Premiere. Maybe by the end of the opera many will forget what the Allegory on duty was speaking about, but no one can ever forget how thrilling it was to hear her sing in her own way, "Ladies and Gentlemen, good evening!"
On this CD it is true that the opera is never going to commence, and that as every track fades into the other, we find a new greeting, a new beginning. But finally these characters will have the chance to descend from their pedestals, walk off the stage and reach out to the listeners lying on their couches, to whisper in their ears where they come from...what colour was the Queen's hair...how beautiful and starry is the midsummer night's sky...in Venice.
SANDONI CANTATAS - 2022
A real discovery from the curious ensemble La Floridiana: cantatas and instrumental works Pier Giuseppe Sandoni, all world premiere recordings and a surprise: what was previously attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach, actually comes from - exactly: Sandoni.
An album of premieres of interesting Baroque works, dedicated to a composer who was a much sought-after composer and highly appreciated virtuoso on the harpsichord in Handel's time. We are talking about the Italian Baroque composer Pier Giuseppe Sandoni, who was known in his time not only as Handel's assistant and extremely virtuoso harpsichordist, but also as the husband of the famous prima donna Francesca Cuzzoni (1696-1778), for whom he wrote numerous arias. Despite their quality, Sandoni's works have fallen into oblivion; only a few of them have been edited, and the few that have survived lie only in manuscript in various European libraries.
Thanks to the ingenuity of Nicoleta Paraschivescu, leader of the Swiss ensemble La Floridiana, works by Sandoni can now be heard in a new recording. The album contains, of course, pieces for harpsichord solo like the "Suite in G minor" or the "Ciaccona for harpsichord in A major", but also instrumental pieces for ensemble like the "Sonata a Trè" for two violins and basso continuo in E minor. The cantatas "Dimmi crudel," "Chi s'intende d'amar," and "Del timor d'un cor geloso" heard on this album may have been written by Sandoni especially for his wife. In the case of this recording, they are sung by the excellent soprano Francesca Aspromonte (WHO APPEARS COURTESY OF PENTATONE)