Portrait of a Lady with a Harp
Music for Queen Christina of Sweden by Pasquini, Corelli, Arcadelt, Stradella and Scarlatti
Mara Galassi (harp)
Glossa GCD921304 61:30 mins
The anonymous 17th-century Portrait of a Lady with Harp (plundered by the Nazis, now in Zagreb) is the inspiration behind this Baroque potpourri played by Italian harpist Mara Galassi. Speculating that its sitter might be Christina of Sweden, the flamboyantly eccentric, cross-dressing, music-loving abdicated queen, Galassi has selected works by composers under the ex-sovereign’s patronage during her exile in Rome. Among the highlights are character pieces by Christina’s ‘Prince of Music’, Bernardo Pasquini: variously dedicated to ‘a German page’, ‘Petronilla, a singing singleton’, the shadowy ‘Milone’, they meander from wistful reflections to sprightly dances. There’s a lacy Sinfonia by the notorious Alessandro Stradella, its delicate style curiously at odds with the composer’s hot-blooded life and cold-blooded death. And there’s an attractive arrangement for the harp (of an arrangement for the organ!) of Corelli’s first Trio Sonata from his Op. 1 collection (dedicated to Christina), its crystalline textures clear as cut glass here.
Galassi’s double harp is based on the splendid 1632 ‘Arpa Barberini’ by Girolamo Acciari, its beguilingly silvery sound ideal for these intricate works, while its spectrum of chromatic colours captures their variegated affects. Throughout, Galassi combines precision and flair with astute musicological insights, and the regal harp is faithfully captured by Glossa’s engineers.