Cavalieri: Rappresentatione di anima e di corpo

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COMPOSERS: Cavalieri
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Rappresentatione di anima e di corpo
PERFORMER: Rosita Frisani, Alessandro Carmignani, Carlo Lepore, Michel van Goethem; Cappella Musicale di San Petronio di Bologna/Sergio Vartolo
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554096-97
In the last years of the 16th century St Philip Neri founded a new religious order. Next to his new church in Rome was a prayer hall or ‘oratory’ for non-liturgical events. It was there in 1600 that Cavalieri presented his new, ground-breaking ‘oratorio’ on the struggle between the delights of the flesh and the journey of the soul.

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This Naxos recording of that work is the most complete: it is the only one to contain the long spoken Prologue between ‘Awareness’ and ‘Prudence’, and it also has two versions of the ending – the final chorus, ‘Rispondono’, and an alternative ballo – performed consecutively. Of course, the Italian performers are alert to the nuances of the text, but they need more pace and drama. The two other available recordings – one from 1970 directed by Mackerras and reissued on Archiv; the other from 1996 on Koch – are speedier and make more theatre out of the descent into hell, and the final exhortation from Soul. However, the small, flexible Naxos chorus is much superior to the untidy Koch group, and to the thick, mushy noise from Archiv. But their instrumental approach is over-fussy and even pantomimic, with many tuneless flourishes from unnecessary percussion instruments in the recitatives. The Koch version is stylistically the most coherent and is the first choice, with Naxos coming a close second. But, if one can grit one’s teeth at the bad bits, there is still some point to hearing the gloriously inappropriate vocal fireworks from Tatiana Troyanos, Paul Esswood and Arleen Auger on Archiv. Anthony Pryer