Appena chiudo gli occhi
Cantatas for solo voice with violin by Caldara, A Scarlatti and Valentini
Giuseppina Bridelli (mezzo-soprano); Quartetto Vanvitelli
Arcana A487 76:57 mins
The Sicilian Alessandro Scarlatti and his Venetian contemporary Antonio Caldara emerged from opposite extremes of the Italian peninsula, but their career paths converged in Rome in the early years of the 18th century where their cantatas echoed round the gilded salons of the Roman elite, including Cardinal Ottoboni and the Marquis Ruspoli.
Highlights here include Caldara’s lyrical and operatic Innocente cor mio, its poetic antitheses thrown into high relief by mezzo Giuseppina Bridelli, and Vicino a un rivoletto – a tale of unrequited love in a pastoral setting complete with evocations of birdsong and wafting zephyrs, and some exquisite duetting between solo voice and violin. Also ravishing is Scarlatti’s Appena chiudo gli occhi, with its expressive harmonies, chromatic lines and the beguilingly wistful aria ‘Dolce sonno’ (echoes of Handel?). Bridelli parées the musical challenges with an impressive technique and a range of timbres, from copper to silver to steel. For some tastes, her voice may have a little too much vibrato but it is nonetheless superbly controlled, and her delivery of the text is razor sharp.
The disc also includes the thrilling Allettamento da camera by Giuseppe Valentini (a violinist in Ruspoli’s household). A flamboyant showcase for the solo violin, it’s carried off with terrific aplomb (bar an occasional wiriness in the fiddle’s upper register) by Gian Andrea Guerra. Here and throughout, Quartetto Vanvitelli creates variegated colours and textures with playing by turns muscular and vigorous, airy and delicate.