Strozzi: Arias, laments & cantatas

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COMPOSERS: Strozzi
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Arias, laments & cantatas
PERFORMER: Susanne Rydén (soprano); Musica Fiorita
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 905249
Prolific and exceptionally gifted, Barbara Strozzi remains one of the Italian Baroque’s most neglected composers. The adopted daughter of librettist Giulio Strozzi and pupil of opera pioneer Francesco Cavalli, she became renowned as a singer while still in her teens. In 1644, aged 25, she published her Op. 1, a book of madrigals: seven further volumes of vocal works followed, predominantly cantatas and arias for solo voice. Blending older, declamatory vocal styles with a free-flowing melodic invention that anticipates 18th-century bel canto, her music is an intoxicating whirl of dramatic gesture, colourful emotion and – in the ravishing curlicues of its melismatic flights – thrilling sensuality.

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This new disc by Swedish soprano Susanne Rydén and Musica Fiorita offers the perfect introduction to Strozzi’s work. Brief, humorous arias such as the flamboyant ‘Begl’occhi, bel seno’ alternate with more substantial cantate e lamenti, where Strozzi merges recitative and arioso into a fluent, songlike stream: ‘Hor che Apollo’, richly embellished by two violins, and the exquisitely tuneful ‘L’amante segreto’ are especially captivating. Performances too are superlative; aided by Musica Fiorita’s dynamic, sensitive continuo playing, Rydén, limpid yet ardent, brilliantly animates Strozzi’s union of extravagant expression and precise formal control. A magical release.