Maria Savastano and Ensemble Diderot perform cantatas for soprano by Ristori

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LABELS: Audax Records
WORKS: Cantatas for soprano: Lavinia a Turno; Didone abbandonata; Nice a Tirsi; Oboe Concerto
PERFORMER: Maria Savastano (soprano), Jon Olaberria (oboe); Ensemble Diderot/Johannes Pramsohler


Ensemble Diderot has previously doffed its cap to the Dresden Court on disc, taking its cue from Handel’s visit in 1719. Among the composers represented was the little-known Frantisek Ignác Antonín Tùma, and this repeat flourish rehabilitates another under-sung hero. A younger contemporary of JS Bach, the Italian-born Giovanni Alberto Ristori served the Elector’s Hofkapelle for nigh on 40 years, and the three cantatas setting texts by the Princess Maria Antonia of Bavaria are late works; beneficiaries, arguably, of an ear-opening spell in Naples a decade earlier when two of his operas were presented at the San Carlo theatre. 

Each cantata invokes a feisty woman wracked by the torments of thwarted love. Two of them draw on Virgil’s Aeneid; and all are exuberantly operatic, sporting well-turned arias that sometimes fall back on cliché but detonate turbulent fireworks as required, and elaborately detailed recitatives affording Johannes Pramsohler’s crack instrumentalists a heightened share in the unfolding dramas. 

Soprano María Savastano combines smouldering fury with sovereign presence (step forward Dido’s ‘Quante volte’), though the volatile emotional ebb and flow can be under-modulated in places. After all the anguished breast-beating, a genial oboe concerto, genially despatched by Jon Olaberria, restores benign equilibrium. 

Paul Riley