Carissimi: Piangete: cantatas & motets, plus works by Frescobaldi, Rossi & Kapsberger

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COMPOSERS: Carissimi
LABELS: Signum
WORKS: Piangete: cantatas & motets, plus works by Frescobaldi, Rossi & Kapsberger
PERFORMER: Concerto delle Donne
CATALOGUE NO: SIG CD 040
Music historians have emphasised Carissimi’s contribution to the Baroque oratorio at the expense of his huge output of sacred motets for the German College in Rome, and cantatas, largely for the court in exile of Queen Christina of Sweden. The constraints of Concerto delle Donne – three sopranos with supporting continuo – have generated a trawl of delightful pieces otherwise unavailable on disc. These are interspersed with instrumental works, including a strikingly chromatic keyboard toccata by Rossi and pieces for chitarrone by Carissimi’s Roman contemporary, Kapsberger.

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Five cantatas reflect the disc’s title, ‘Piangete’, weeping over the pangs of unrequited love. Stylised texts, full of stereotyped metaphor, have minimal literary merit but stimulate poignant dissonances and woeful Neapolitan flattened harmonies – the solo cantata ‘Piangete’ almost matches the famous outburst of despair from the hero’s daughter in Carissimi’s oratorio Jephte.

The motets include some celebratory moments and here the texture of three equal voices is fascinatingly deceptive. The three are almost indistinguishable in tone quality so that, as each weaves its musical thread with the next, the ear loses count of them before they join together in swirling melismas.

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So much new repertoire, recorded in a vibrant acoustic, makes this a very attractive disc. George Pratt