La Bella Più Bella
The ‘strana armonia’ (strange harmonies) of 17th-century Italy twist and burn in Roberta Invernizzi and Craig Marchitelli’s recital of songs by Caccini, d’India, Monteverdi and their disciples. This is vocal writing that thrives on extremes: complex, emphatic, dissonant and brilliantly embellished. The same can be said of Marchitelli’s selection of dances and toccatas by the Venetian-born lutenist Johannes Hieronymus Kapsberger and the Bolognese virtuoso Alessandro Piccinini – though the object here is less to illustrate the foolishness of mortals in love than the superhuman technical abilities of the lutenists of wealthy courts.
Invernizzi is a fearless singer. Some notes are stripped violently dry and thin, others made hot and heavy with vibrato, and her fioritura in Monteverdi’s Voglio di vita uscir is coruscating. Marchitelli displays a handsome variety of touch and tonal colour. Luigi Rossi’s tart provocation, A qual dardo, and flirty La bella più bella offer light relief from all the sighing and dying. But the most impressive aspect of this exhaustingly flamboyant performance is that both artists devote as much care to Kapsberger’s cradle-song Ninna nanna and Caccini’s strophic fancy, Dalla porta d’Oriente as they do to Barbara Strozzi’s grand lament, Udite amanti and Giacomo Carissimi’s Piangete, aure, piangete.