Sunday, October 10, 2010

Musical Concerto - !6th and 17th vocal and instrumental music directed by Roberto Gini at the Einav Center (Tel Aviv)

The concert bore the title “Musical Concerto of Madrigals, Arias, Canzonettas and Sonatas by Signor Claudio Monteverdi and Other Excellent Composers”. Under the direction of viola da gamba player Roberto Gini, on this occasion at the harpsichord (playing a Henk Klop instrument) it took place at the Einav Center (Tel Aviv) on October 2nd 2010, following a week of an intensive 17th century seminar of secular music led by Maestro Gini (Italy), soprano Antonella Gianese (Italy) and recorder player Drora Bruck (Israel). Prior to the concert itself, we heard a few words from Ms. Carmella Calea of the Italian Cultural Institute in Tel Aviv, the organization having generously supported the evening’s concert. The above-mentioned artists were joined by Israeli artists, all active in the lively local early music scene - soprano Ayala Sicron, baritone Yair Polishook, Baroque violinist Noam Schuss, Baroque ‘cellist Orit Messer Jacobi and theorbo player Eitan Hoffer.

The program focused on Italian secular music of the 16th- and 17th centuries - on arias, madrigals and on canzonettas. Gini referred to the different character of each vocal genre, who performed them and for whom performed. Interspersed were some representative instrumental works of the time.

Court composer Sigismondo D’India (1582-1629) referred to himself as “nobile palermitano” (a nobleman from Palermo). His monody “Piangono al pianger mio” (When I weep wild beasts weep too) (1609) was sung by soprano Ayala Sicron. Roberto Gini and Orit Messer provided the ostinato over which Sicron wove and built the increasingly emotional and musical intricacies of Ottavio Rinuccini’s poem of lovesick despair. The artists paced themselves, allowing for D’India’s word painting and musical effects to permeate the scene.

From the VII Libro di Madrigali of 1619 (Venice), Claudio Monteverdi’s (1567-1643) “Chiome d’oro” (Golden Tresses) presents a vigorous juxtaposition of two duets – two sopranos (Gianese, Sicron) against violin (Schuss) and recorder (Bruck), each pair presenting its own agenda, the audience kept on its toes by sudden departures from established musical patterns.
‘Golden tresses, oh so precious,
You bind me in a thousand ways
Whether coiled or flowing freely.

…Oh dear bonds in which I take delight!
Oh fair mortality!
Oh welcome wound!’

Theorbo player Eitan Hoffer poignantly led the audience into Jacopo Peri’s (1561-1633) “Caro e soave legno” (Dear and sweet lute) (1609). Till 1671, there had been a papal ban on women performing on the Roman stage and this piece, its text possibly by Rinuccini, was probably performed by three equal voices, most likely castrati singers. From 1600 to 1603, Peri was employed as accompanist and composer for the Concerto de’ castrati. As sung here by sopranos Gianese, Sicron and baritone Polishook, the question of vocal balance remains. In another Peri madrigal for 3 voices “O dolce anima mia” (O my sweet soul), from the same years of Peri’s employ, we heard a competent performance peppered with ornaments and melismatic passages.

Antonella Gianese performed Monteverdi’s aria “Et e pur dunque vero” (And as to the truth), a veritable mini-drama, a compelling and exciting work. Not the only heart-rending outpouring included in the composer’s 1632 edition of “Scherzi musicali cioe Arie, & Madrigali”, the performance was greatly enhanced by tasteful recorder soli (Bruck).

The “Canzonette spirituali e morali” are among Monteverdi’s earliest secular works; lightweight but clever in their wordplay, they are designed to entertain all who listen to them. By 1584 the precocious young composer was turning out canzonets that showed polyphonic skill incorporated with the use of dance and folk music and unrestrained joy and humor. We were presented with a number of them, to the enjoyment of all - artists and audience alike. Following the strophic canzonet “Fugi fugi se vuoi vincere” (Escape, escape if you wish to be victorous) we heard the instrumental ensemble in a fine performance of Biagio Marini’s (1597-1665) Sonata sopra “Fuggi dolente core” (Escape wretched heart) for chamber instruments and continuo (1655). Essentially a set of variations, it uses the melody of the above song as a wandering cantus firmus.

As to the instrumental pieces, we heard Salomone Rossi’s (1570-1630) Sonata a 2 in diologo detta “La Viena”, in which violinist Noam Schuss and Drora Bruck communicated in a poetic dialogue. In sonatas by Milanese composer Giovanni Paolo Cima (1570-1622) we were treated to superb recorder playing by Bruck (Sonata a Flauto e Violone). Messer Jacobi and Schuss’s knowledge of style and unfailing excellence made for a delightful reading of Cima’s Sonata for Violin and Violone (1610). Altogether, the instrumentalists supported the singers and graced the evening with precise and elegant playing.

Bringing the concert to an end, singers and instrumentalists joined to present Monteverdi’s colorful, courtly Entrata e Balletto “De la bellezza le dovute lodi” (Beauty’s Due Praises) (1607).

Roberto Gini’s programs have theme and direction. Gini puts works and composers into perspective; concert-goers will always leave his concerts with new knowledge, The printed program, in both Italian and Hebrew, included detail as to each composer and piece.

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