Provenzale, Caresana

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Caresana,Provenzale
WORKS: Pange lingua; Dialogo sacro a 5 con strumenti; Missa Exultet orbis gaudiis; Sonata a 8 parti
PERFORMER: Emanuela Galli, Maria Grazia Schiavo, Roberto Andalò (soprano), Daniela del Monaco, Assia Polito (mezzo-soprano), Rosario Totaro, Giuseppe de Vittorio (tenor), Giuseppe Naviglio, Pierre Thirion Vallet (bass); Cappella de’ Turchini/Antonio Florio
CATALOGUE NO: 111 OP 30360
You might expect Opus 111’s 16th beaker of blushful south to taste of barrel-bottom – but no, there are delightful discoveries here, delivered with conviction and style. The longest and weirdest item is a 43-minute Passion, attributed to Francesco Provenzale (1624-1704), one of Naples’s best and busiest church composers. This bizarre and vivid ‘dialogo sacro’ for five singers and instruments pits Christ against not Roman regime-changers but a crowd of peasants, who take him for a hated landlord and unceremoniously murder him. Meddlers in rural affairs, beware! Provenzale’s most popular piece was his two-choir setting of the hymn ‘Pange lingua’, its many beauties ensuring it was still sung a century later. But his ability (or desire?) to create something bigger gets bogged down in the pedestrian rum-ti-tum of the medieval Latin. Still, Provenzale fully repays the efforts of his chief champions, the Cappella de’ Turchini. After the Pange lingua, you thank the Church Fathers for making the Mass so much more interesting. Cristofaro Caresana’s Mass, fine but fogeyish for 1708, also calls for two choirs – much less common in Naples than up North – as does his short but intriguing eight-part Sonata, which you’d swear was by a forerunner of Bach. Fascinating! Nick Morgan