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LABELS: Chandos Chaconne
WORKS: La forza del divino amore
PERFORMER: Leona Peleskova, Marivì Blasco (soprano), Sergio Foresti (bass); Ensemble ‘Pian & Forte’/Antonio Frigé
‘Signor Bernardo Gaffi, pupil of signor Bernardo Pasquini is an excellent performer on the harpsichord and also a God-fearing man; he is furthermore a sanctimonious hypocrite.’ Thus runs a caption by the witty 18th-century artist Pier Leone Ghezzi beneath his caricature of Gaffi, reproduced in the booklet accompanying this recording of La forza del divino amore (The strength of divine love). La forza is an oratorio for three voices with an ensemble of strings, continuo and a prominent role for trumpet. Gaffi was a younger Roman contemporary of Stradella, Alessandro Scarlatti and Corelli, whose talent seems above all to have been in the sphere of the cantata and oratorio. Like Scarlatti, he benefited from the support of the leading Roman patrons of music, Cardinals Ottoboni and Pamphili. La forza was first performed in Rome in 1690 and dedicated to another cardinal, Rinaldo d’Este. Its text relates an episode in the life of the Carmelite mystic St Teresa of Avila and unfolds in the manner of an extended cantata with alternating recitatives, arias and duets – the duets ‘O quanto soavi’ (track 25) and ‘Van piacer’ (track 29) testify to Gaffi’s skill in constructing the latter. Gaffi’s music is in turn declamatory and lyrical and these qualities are conveyed with stylish conviction and a strong dramatic awareness by singers and instrumentalists alike. Since Gaffi’s score lacks any introductory sinfonia to either of the oratorio’s two parts, director Antonio Frigé has introduced music by Stradella, from his serenata Il barcheggio. Nicholas Anderson