WORKS: Duets, Songs and duets
PERFORMER: Favella Lyrica
CATALOGUE NO: 3-7491-2
Barbara Strozzi rose to prominence in one of the semi-private ‘academies’ (ie small social gatherings of artists and intellectuals) that flourished in 17th-century Venice. Indeed, it seems likely that her adoptive father, Giulio Strozzi, librettist to Monteverdi and Cavalli, founded his Accademia degli Unisoni chiefly to feature her phenomenal talents as a singer and composer. The great majority of Strozzi’s compositions are for solo voice, but the Boston-based Favella Lyrica has devised an intriguing set around eight of her rare duets, which it has supplemented with duo and solo works by Nicolò Fontei, a fellow member of the Accademia, who wrote these pieces specifically for Strozzi to sing.
Fontei’s music, while graceful and melodic, is relatively conventional; Strozzi’s is flamboyant, volatile and highly original in its dramatic contrasts and fluidity of form. Her versatility encompasses a gamut of feelings and styles, from the elaborate, sensuous ‘Canto di bella bocca’ to the heart-piercing simplicity of ‘La riamata da chi amava’. Pamela Dellal and Pamela Murray sing well but sound too earnest, too stolid. They miss much of Strozzi’s playfulness, much of her finesse, and fail to capture the heady, mercurial spirit that runs through her remarkable music. Graham Lock