Songs by Barbara Strozzi, Cavalli, Cesti, Marini & Merula
Emőke Baráth (soprano); Il Pomo d’Oro/Francesco Corti
Erato 9029563221 79:52 mins
Barbara Strozzi, born 400 years ago in Venice, was a key figure of the early Baroque, not only a celebrated singer-lutenist, but the first woman composer to be published in her own lifetime. Through over 125 surviving, often harmonically adventurous works Strozzi developed a bold and distinctive compositional voice. As this album from soprano Emőke Baráth tantalisingly suggests, Strozzi made contributions to the chamber cantata form that deserve far wider attention. Songs from Strozzi’s Opp 2, 6, 7 and final 8 are interleaved with works by three contemporaries: opera arias by her teacher, Cavalli; a song by Cesti; and instrumental pieces by Merula and Merini.
With extrovert support from Il Pomo d’Oro and harpsichordist-director Francesco Corti, each song becomes a vocal and dramatic showcase, emphasising abrupt switches between extreme psychological states. Bookended by the furious defiance of ‘Che si può fare’ and tempestuous wit of ‘L’astratto’, emotions churn through dissonances and false relations with gutsy, rhythmic aplomb. If Baráth’s richly operatic delivery feels sometimes counterintuitive in Strozzi’s more intimate laments, it’s nonetheless a reminder that Cavalli and Cesti in particular found fame in that spectacular new stage genre to which, as a woman, Strozzi was denied access.