The 17th Century Voice

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Program: #19-17   Air Date: Apr 15, 2019

Three views on the early Baroque, with music of Barbara Strozzi, a world-premiere recordings of counter-tenor arias, and the Grammy-award-winning Apollo’s Fire recording, “Songs of Orpheus."

I. Songs of Orpheus (Karim Sulayman, t./Apollo’s Fire/Jeannette Sorrell). Avie CD AV2383.

Songs of Orpheus
I Love You To Hell And Back. Lebanese-American tenor Karim Sulayman’s neat encapsulation of the Orpheus myth infuses his solo recording debut, Songs of Orpheus. Orpheus, the greatest singer of all time, famously followed his deceased beloved Eurydice to the gates of Hades in an attempt to bring her back to life. He was thwarted by the gods who forbade him to gaze at her during their journey back to earth. He could not resist, and the tale has been told in numerous musical interpretations including those of Monteverdi and his 17th-century compatriots who are represented on this imaginative album, performed with leading baroque interpreters Jeannette Sorrell and Apollo’s Fire.

From The American tenor Karim Sulayman, of Lebanese background, has previously been heard on recordings with the Cleveland-based historical-performance group Apollo's Fire. He is backed by members of that group here in his solo debut, with the larger Apollo's Fire heard on the instrumental sonatas distributed through the program. Those point to the real strength of this release. Sulayman has a wonderfully resonant voice, and he contributes, in his singing and in an elegant note, a sense of personal involvement with the story of Orpheus, mythology's most famous vocalist. A collection of 17th century pieces related to Orpheus, a story intimately entwined with the development of opera, was a good idea in itself, but where Sulayman really excels is in forging a little "I love you to hell and back" narrative to tie together these pieces by MonteverdiGiulio CacciniDario CastelloGiovanni Paulo CimaSigismondo d'IndiaStefano LandiAntonio Brunelli, and Tarquinio Merula. Some of the instrumental sonatas are quite unusual, and all relate vividly to the stage of the story under discussion. Sample Castello's Sonata No. 2 in D minor, proceeding into Sulayman's rendition of Tu se' morta from Orfeo. (An audience of the 17th century, one suspects, would have loved both the idea and its execution by Sulayman, who manages to produce a big yet intimate sound. But this a fine early Baroque vocal release from the American Midwest, where early music is still not a terribly common find.

Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
1. Si dolce è ‘l tormento [3:35]
from Quarto scherzo
delle ariose vaghezze, 1624 arr. J. Sorrell
2. Vi ricorda o bosch’ ombrosi [2:32]
from L’Orfeo, 1607
3. Rosa del ciel [2:31]
from L’Orfeo

Giulio Caccini (1551-1618)
4. Dolcissimo sospiro [2:55]
from Le nuove musiche, 1602

Dario Castello (1590-1658)
5. Sonata No. 2 in D Minor [5:28]
from Sonate concertate in stil moderno, Libro II, 1629 – Julie Andrijeski, violin

6. Tu se’ morta from L’Orfeo [4:04]

7. Funeste piaggie [4:39]
from L’Euridice, 1602, arr. J. Sorrell

Giovanni Paulo Cima (1570 – 1622)
8. Sonata no. 1 in G Minor [4:56]
for Violin & Continuo – Johanna Novom, violin

9. Qual honor di te sia degno from L’Orfeo [5:00]

10. Sonata concertata XV, a Quattro voci [5:04]

Sigismondo D’india (1582-1629)
11. Piangono al pianger mio [4:47]

from Le musiche da cantar solo, Milan 1609

Stefano Landi (1587-1639)
12. Canta la cicaletta [4:37]
from Quinto libro di arie da cantarsi ad una voce, 1637
 arr. J. Sorrell
13. T’amai gran tempo [6:22]
from Secondo libro di arie
da cantarsi ad una voce, 1627 arr. R. Schiffer

Antonio Brunelli (1577-1630)
14. Non havea Febo ancora [2:43]
from Arie, scherzi, canzonette e madrigali a cantare e suonare, 1613

Tarquinio Merula (1595-1665)
15. Folle è ben che si crede [3:58]
from Curtio precipitato et altri capricii,1638 arr. by J. Sorrell & R. Schiffer
Total Time: 63:21

II. Voglio Cantar (Emőke Baráth, s./Il Pomo d’Oro/Francesco Corti). Erato CD 0190295632212.

Voglio cantar – ‘I want to sing’ – is Emőke Baráth’s first solo album for Erato. The young Hungarian soprano has built a special reputation in Baroque music and the prime focus here is on Barbara Strozzi, who made her name as a composer in 17th century Venice. “She must have been quite a revolutionary personality,” says Emőke Baráth. “Her music is improvisational, intuitive, even rhapsodic … She was clearly a passionate woman with a strong dramatic sense.” Baráth is joined by Il Pomo d’Oro, conducted by Francesco Corti
From the Financial Times:

The 17th century was a welcome period of opportunity for women in the arts. This was the age of artist Artemisia Gentileschi and playwright Aphra Behn, while in Italy women composers with the right connections were in a position not just to write music, but to get it published. The outstanding woman composer of the day was Barbara Strozzi, a leading light in the musical circles of Venice. As the momentum to rediscover neglected women composers has gathered pace, Strozzi has emerged at the top of the list. Her music has headlined several early music festivals and last month launched the opening night of “Venus Unwrapped”, the year-long festival of women composers at Kings Place, London. Strozzi is credited as being one of the most published composers of her time. Most of her work is in the form of solo cantatas, which she probably sang herself. From the age of 18 (singers started young in those days) she was renowned as a soprano of beauty and charisma. This new disc places a selection of her cantatas among works by other composers of the period, notably her tutor, opera composer Francesco Cavalli, who is represented by extracts from his opera Statira, principessa di Persia. Arias and instrumental pieces by Cesti, Marini and Merula are performed alongside. Strozzi and her contemporaries are championed with élan by young Hungarian soprano Emöke Baráth and lively Italian period-instrument ensemble Il Pomo d’Oro under Francesco Corti. Other performances of these solo cantatas have been more intimate. These are made to impress, vividly emotional, boldly coloured, brightly recorded. It is hard to imagine anybody not being captivated by the emotive beauty of Strozzi’s music.

From Gramophone: Having impressed on previous Baroque releases for Erato (Handel’s Partenope and Philippe Jaroussky’s ‘Storia di Orfeo’ composite, 12/15, 4/17), the Hungarian soprano Emőke Baráth has emerged with her own contract, of which this release is the first fruit. And how nice it is to welcome not a disc of the same old Handel arias from operas she happens to have sung in but a properly worked-out programme focusing on the 17th-century Venetian composer Barbara Strozzi.Strozzi never wrote an opera, but the tortured love domain she explored in her ariettas and cantatas is an intense one. Baráth sings six of these pieces, setting them alongside a cantata by Antonio Cesti and a group of arias from the opera Statira, principessa di Persia by her teacher Francesco Cavalli, and the comparison is a revealing one, the confident public art of the two big-name opera composers throwing into relief Strozzi’s more natural emotional truth. The daughter of a poet and librettist, and a regular speaker at his intellectual debating shop, she had no fear of sophisticated literary texts and could respond with honesty, intimacy and a total lack of musical posturing. The affecting falling intervals of her dark laments strike to the heart like a knife, and when there is playfulness it can still work to a serious and wholly appropriate end: ‘L’Astratto’, the piece that ends the programme, shows a love-letter writer rejecting various artificial styles before arriving at his true message – that it is love that controls him rather than the other way round.

Baráth’s voice is strong, bright and clear, innately attractive with crisply enunciated words. One might wish for a wider range of colours, and indeed over time she can seem a little full-on in this music; it might just be that, for the time being at least, it is Cavalli’s outgoing operatic world that suits her better. The expert contributions from Il Pomo d’Oro, including short instrumental interludes by Marini and Merula, are typically tight and pingy. 

1. Strozzi: Arie, Op. 8 No. 6: "Che si può fare” 09:28

2. Strozzi: Diporti di Euterpe, Op. 7 No. 10: "Mi fa rider la speranza” 03:30

3. Strozzi: Diporti di Euterpe, Op. 7 No. 4: Lamento (Lagrime mie) 08:26

4. Marini: Affetti musicali, Op. 1 No. 1: Sinfonia grave La Zorzi 03:25

5. Pietro Antonio Cesti (1623 - 1669): "Speranza ingannatrice” 07:01

6.Tarquinio Merula (1595 - 1665): Canzoni overo sonate concertate per chiesa e camera, Book 3, Op. 12: XIX. Ballo detto Eccardo 02:10

 7. Barbara Strozzi: Cantate, Ariette e Duetti, Op. 2 No. 17: Il Lamento (Sul Rodano severo) 12:48

 8. Francesco Cavalli (1602 - 1676): Statira, principessa di Persia: Sinfonia 01:17

 9. Statira, principessa di Persia, Act 1: "Alba, ch'imperli i fiori ... Amor, che mascherasti" (Ermosilla) 04:05

10. Cavalli: Musiche Sacre: No. 23, Canzon a 3  05:25

11. Cavalli: Statira, principessa di Persia, Act 2: "Cresce il foco, avvampa il core" (Floralba  )03:01

 12Cavalli: Statira, principessa di Persia, Act 2: "Vanne intrepido" (Statira)  03:43

13. Strozzi: Ariette a voce sola, Op. 6: XVI. Amante loquace (Chi brama in amore)  02:39

14. Marini: Sonata sopra "Fuggi dolente core", Op. 22 No. 21  03:06

15. Strozzi: Arie, Op. 8 No. 4: L'Astratto (Voglio, sì vo' cantar)  05:27

 16. Strozzi: Arie, Op. 8 No. 4: L'Astratto (Misero, i guai m'han da me stesso astratto)  04:22

III.  Anima Sacra (Jakub Józef Orliński, ct./Il Pomo d’Oro/Maxim Emelyanychev). Erato CD 0190295633745.

This release, Anima sacra, marks a number of firsts. It is the debut album from countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński – born in Poland, trained at the renowned Juilliard School in New York and winner in 2016 of the Metropolitan Opera's prestigious National Council Auditions. It also features what are believed to be world premiere recordings of eight Baroque arias, notably by composers of the Neapolitan school

“Baroque style is about freedom and passion,” says Orliński. “There are lots of rules of style to follow, but there are also so many choices to make, starting with ornamentation that you can do in so many different ways. With those ornaments, you can show your creativity, but also get even deeper into the piece and show your artistic persona. It can all be filtered by your own life experiences, which will inspire your choices.” 

Warsaw-born Orliński, who has been praised by the New York Times for combining “beauty of tone and an uncommon unity of colour and polish across his range”, comes from a family in which, as he says, “almost everyone is a painter, architect, graphic designer or sculptor”. He began singing in choirs and became a particular fan of the British male vocal ensemble The King’s Singers, which, significantly, has always featured two countertenors. Before completing his studies at Juilliard, he took a Master’s degree in Vocal Performance at Warsaw’s Fryderyk Chopin University of Musicand became a member of the young artists’ programme of the Polish National Opera.       

From Many young singers, especially in the baroque repertoire, tend to choose dependable crowdpleasers when making their debut CD.  “Lascia ch’io pianga” and “Ombra mai fu” appear with such ubiquity it seems almost sinful not to include them.

Polish wunderknabe countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński’s first major release for Erato/Warner Classics courageously breaks the mold. There are so many exotic rarities and forgotten treasures, that Orliński is akin to a musical Count of Monte Cristo dazzling his listeners with a vocal cornucopia of precious jewels. Of the 23 tracks, no less than 17 are world premiere recordings. Such originality reflects Orliński’s uniqueness as an artist – the handsome young Juilliard alumnus is not just a celebrated singer but also a highly accomplished break-dancer.

18 Months In The Making

Orliński graciously gives credit to his musicologist colleague Yannis François for having discovered these long-lost masterpieces and François’ excellent sleeve notes are illuminating. The whole project was more than 18 months in the making. It was certainly worth the effort. The album is entitled “Anima Sacra” which is usually translated as “sacred soul” but can also mean “sacred breath.” Given the singer’s celestial vocal color, the latter is much more appropriate. Orliński’s pristine Latin diction deserves magna cum laude.

The CD is primarily focused on the early 18th century Neapolitan-school of composers, particularly Francesco Nicola Fago (1677-1745). Due to his sobriquet of “Il Tarantino,” Fago was presumably small in stature, but the quality of his compositions as revealed in more than half the tracks on “Anima Sacra” is anything but puny. Another five forgotten Neapolitan-school composers are represented but this CD is light years away from being a boring academic exercise into recherché Baroque esoterica.

Whilst “Anima Sacra’s” most obvious appeal is the renaissance of so many bygone musical bijoux, it is the superb musicianship of both soloist and orchestra which makes the recording so rewarding.  Chapeau to Maxim Emelyanychev and Il Pomo d’Oro who show they can work as impressively with a young Polish countertenor as accompanying a diva assoluta such as Joyce DiDonato. Adding the placid organ to his usual role of pounding the hell out of the cembalo,  Emelyanychev brings infectious vitality to the recording without compromising performance precision and invariably ignites his ensemble of hyper-energized musicians.There are some very minor criticisms of what is otherwise a superb CD. The first is that occasionally Orliński’s delivery is so carefully controlled there is a slight decrement in spontaneity which is odd considering how uninhibited and exuberant the young countertenor is on stage. Secondly, except for instrumental passages, the prodigiously gifted Pomo d’Oro players are not given anything approximating equal prominence in the overall sound mix. Miking is extremely close-in on Orliński which is wonderful for vocal acuity but limits the overall impact of the ensemble. A final niggardly observation is that two of the short recitatives of less than a minute are allocated their own tracks, which is structurally unsatisfactory and aesthetically disconcerting.


Things get off to a gentle, almost celestial start with Fago’s “Alla gente a Dio diletta” which is far from the flashy attention grabber with which many new offerings would open. There is delicate lute playing from Luca Pianca supporting Orliński’s elegant vocal line which is impeccably phrased with a seamless legato cantabile and Cicero-certified Latin diction. The countertenor’s translucent empyrean singing could have inspired Handel’s “Let the bright Seraphim.”

Track three brings superbly biting syncopated marcato strings leaping into “Memoriam fecit mirabilium suorum” which again displays Orliński’s exemplary breath control on words such as “annuntiabit” and “veritas.” The opening à capella melissma on “Memoriam” is splendid and “et miserator” particularly plangent. The concluding rallentando on “veritas et judicium” is superbly judged.

The brisk “Fidelia omnia mandata ejus” track (2:46 minutes) is especially memorable for the raw and raspy horn interjections by Egon Lardschneider and Michael Pescolderung. Orliński’s fabulously even runs, sparkling trilling, cavernous chest notes and pungent articulation of the word “facta” are spell-binding. The dramatic crescendo embellishment of “testimentum” is bravura Baroque singing at its finest.

Fago splits the ninth verse of the Clementine vulgate Psalm 110 to reveal even more fury afoot in the “Sanctus et terribile” and with the skill of a master alchemist, Orliński adds enough metal to his voice to sound like a wrathful Alceste in “Divinités du Styx.” The octave jump on “Sanctus” is deadly accurate and “Terribile” truly terrible. Rhythmic coordination between ensemble and singer is fierce and flawless and Emelyanychev’s strings have a piranha-ish bite which devours the relatively short track.Initium sapentiae timor Domini” is the shortest of the Fago selections coming it at just 1:18 minutes. The emphatic 4/4 marcato beat in strings and lute are plucky and puissant and Orliński’s exquisite trilling on “sapientiae” and “Domini” worthy of Sutherland in her prime. Fago again splits the verses of the Psalm and the allegro agitato “intellectus bonus omnibus” makes up Track seven. Orliński’s florid roulades on “saeculum saeculi” are again impeccable, this time with the added impact of the presto tempo. The semi-tone minor key resolution on “Gloria” is especially effective. The full force of the Pomo d’Oro players is on plenteous display in the rollicking doxology “Sicut erat in principio.” Horns are heroically emphatic and Orliński’s roulades and breath control nothing short of miraculous. Rarely has an “Amen” sounded so convincing.

Heinichen +

One of the few composers featured on “Anima Sacra” who can also be found on extant commercial recordings is Johann David Heinichen (1683-1729). In contrast to Reinhard Goebel’s heavy-handed reading of “Alma Redemptoris Mater” with Musica Antiqua Köln, Emelyanychev directs the Golden Apples with a stately Allemande-ish elegance observing the correct larghetto markings. Orliński’s opening à capella embellishment of “Alma mater” is truly arresting and sung with peerless precision. The two bar semi-quaver roulades on “maris” are delivered with Orliński’s customary superlative breath control and grace notes are con grazia ottimale. The tempo change to adagio brings some ferocious double octave downward scale passages from the strings leading to the “tu quae genuisti” accompanied recitative which evinces Orliński’s perceptive word coloring and masterful melissmatic technique.  A slight oddity was the termination of the track on “Virgo prius ac posterius” without cadence or resolution.

“Gabrielis ab ore” in 3/8 time which follows on track nine was notably abrupt, affecting the musical continuity. Orliński’s alternation of forte and piano on “Ave” is especially effective and his nuanced word painting in the surprising chromatics on “peccatorum” was Petrarchian poetry.

The middle tracks of the CD presented more world premieres from the Nicola Fago motet “Tam non splendet sol creatus” which seems to have become the hit of the album. There is immense energy in both vocal performance and orchestral accompaniment and the allegro roulades and embellishments are dazzlingly without sacrificing taste or intonation. The long fermata on “ah” before the da capo is ravishing. The softly lilting quasi-Chistmas carol “Dum infans iam dormit” again reveals Orliński’s gorgeous cherubim vocal color although curiously his intonation on the final F- natural seems to sag. The “Alleluia” is another paragon of vocal pyrotechnics, with virtuoso orchestral accompaniment abetting Orliński’s prodigious vocal prowess climaxing with a superb trill.

Inclusion of “Laudamus Te” by Domenico Sarro (1679-1744); “Judex ultionis” by Francesco Feo (1691-1761) and Gaetano Maria Schiassi’s (1698-1754) “L’agnelletta timidetta” add to the recondite potpourri. The latter has a bitter-sweet lilting melody with long dotted-rhythm phrases, dramatic leaps, fugal instrumental entries and desolate diminished harmonies affecting Orliński’s deeply moving reading.  In giving outstanding interpretations to these three contrasting arias, the countertenor makes a convincing case for bringing these composers out of the Baroque deep freeze – e subito.

The Close

In contrast, a large amount of music  by Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745) has already been recorded and at nearly 12 minutes, the Czech composer gets the longest track on the album, reflecting the high regard in which he was held by Bach, Telemann, and, much later, Smetana. The recitative and aria “Smanie di dolci affetti/S’una sol lagrima” reveal his original harmonies and intricate counterpoint. Like Fago’s “O nox clara,” the decision to record the recitative as a single track is debatable. Wind accompaniment was particularly beguiling and bubbling bassoon obbligato by Andrea Bressan worthy of  accolades. Orliński relishes the ornamentation on “quanto contento” which is pertly piquant. There are excellent changes of dynamics and deft diminuendi during the finely spun long phrases.

Johann Adolf Hasse was not only a favourite of Empress Maria Theresa and Metastasio but even hyperbolically described as “il padre della musica”. “Mea tormenta, properate!” from his sacred oratorio “Sanctus Petrus et Sancta Maria Magdalena” is an absolute show-stopper and Emelyanychev literally pulls out all the stops in a wild, almost manic performance of the most dramatic track on the CD.

Hasse leaves few markings in the autograph score other than “allegro di molto” but the young Russian conducts with plenty of “whips” although mercifully less “slaughter.” As a result there is much less circumspection in Orliński’s interpretation with some really exciting runs verging on the corybantic. The octave leaps are electrifying, scale passages immaculate and trills razor sharp. “Mori, O Deus, in te” is beautifully phrased in the refulgent top register. The middle lento section change to ¾ on “Jesu mi” provides a timely lyric contrast. Orliński’s word coloring on “serena” is seductive and the leggere embellishments on “cruce” and “paean” exquisite. The three bar crescendo fermata on “Jesu care” is so solidly pitched in the absolute epicenter of the note it’s almost ethereal. The à capella low B-flat chest note on “voca” before the da capo is sepulchral and the following extended trill on “me” superbly clean and perfectly paced. Il Pomo d’Oro re-detonate more frenetic fireworks and feverish bowing is so vehement it seems the strings could implode at any moment. It is sensational.

“Anima Sacra” finishes with an aria for contralto by Francesco Durante (1684-1755) “Domine Fili Unigenite.” For a supposedly ecclesiastical work, the syncopated giocoso rhythms and heavy buffo string marcato underpin a heady allegro florid vocal line which Orliński tosses off with the sparkle and panache of “Fin ch’han dal vino.”

The cover and inside notes of the CD feature photos of a serious, bare-chested Orliński oddly reminiscent of Joyce DiDonato in her “War and Peace” pastiche. Although appealing to many sensually susceptible CD buyers, this kind of scatological Yuja Wang/Lola Astanova marketing is disgracious and redundant. A serious, accomplished young singer such as Orliński doesn’t need a beefy bare chest and perfect pectorals to boost his CD sales. Erato is acting more like “Erotica” and with such a cover photograph, “Anima Sacra” would be better entitled “Corpus mirabilis.”

Fago: Confitebor tibi Domine; Tam non splendet sol creatus; Alla gente a Dio diletta aus "Il faraone sommerso”
+Heinichen: Alma Redemptoris Mater
+Terradellas: Donec ponam aus "Dixit Dominus”
+Sarro: Laudamus te aus der "Messa a 5 voci" F-Dur
+Feo: Juste Judex ultionis aus "Dies Irae" G-Dur
+Zelenka: Smanie di dolci affeti... S'una sol lagrima aus "Gesu al Calvario" ZWV 62
+Hasse: Mea tormenta, properate! aus "Sanctus Petrus et Sancta Maria Magdalena”
+Schiassi: L'agnelletta Timidetta aus "Maria vergine al Calvario”
+Durante: Domine Fili Unigenite aus "Messa a 5 voci"     

Composer Info

Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), Giulio Caccini (1551-1618), Dario Castello (1590-1658), Giovanni Paulo Cima (1570 – 1622), Sigismondo D’india (1582-1629), Stefano Landi (1587-1639), Antonio Brunelli (1577-1630), Tarquinio Merula (1595-1665), Francesco (1602 - 1676), Biaggio Marini, Pietro Antonio Cesti (1623 - 1669), Francesco Nicola Fago (1677-1745), Johann David Heinichen (1683-1729) , Domenico Sarro (1679-1744), Francesco Feo (1691-1761), Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745) , Francesco Durante (1684-1755) , Johann Adolf Hasse , Gaetano Maria Schiassi’s (1698-1754) ,Terradellas

CD Info

CD AV2383, Erato CD 0190295632212, Erato CD 0190295633745