Porpora L’amato nome – Cantatas for the Prince of Wales
Francesca Cassinari, Emanuela Galli (soprano), Giuseppina Bridelli, Marina De Liso (mezzo-soprano); Stile Galante/Stefano Aresi
Glossa GCD 923513 145:45 mins (2 discs)
Bound for London in 1733, Nicola Porpora hurriedly finished 12 pastoral vocal chamber cantatas, dedicated to his new patron, Frederick Prince of Wales, which he then published. They were a hit. Despite its stripped-down format – a line each for voice and bass, with some keyboard realisation – Porpora’s collection would be considered exemplary for house music well into the next century.
Musicologist and harpsichordist Stefano Aresi, whose doctorate was on Porpora, records the collection for the first time in full, splitting the works between four solo singers. This mostly works well, with the sprightly, straight-toned Francesca Cassinari setting off the darker hues of altos Marina de Liso and Giuseppina Bridelli. While Cassinari highlights her character’s innocence, De Liso creates a parodic shepherdess, larding her repeated passages with ornaments. The sexy Bridelli slinks around the accompanying cello line, adding her own ideas to the collection’s most challenging melodies. Less charming is Emanuela Galli, who applies too much shake, drags down tempos and occasionally dips below the harpsichord’s tuning.
I applaud Aresi’s enthusiasm, but question his curatorship. Many of these cantatas (Nos 2, 3, 4, 5 8, 11 and 12) have never been recorded before; some of them might happily have stayed un-recorded. In appealing to the cello-playing Prince Frederick, Porpora appears at times to have cultivated the bass line at the cost of the vocal part. Aresi’s own keyboard realisations, cunning in their humour and extravagance, can’t always salvage dull song. I warmly recommend this collection – but suggest skipping Cantatas Nos 2, 4 and 12.