Il Diario di Chiara / Biondi, Europa Galante

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IL DIARIO DI CHIARA Fabio Biondi, cond; Europa Galante (period instruments) GLOSSA 923401 (CD + DVD: 72:30+32:00 Text and Translation)

BERNASCONI Sinfonia in D. LATILLA Sinfonia in G. MARTINELLI Violin Concerto in E. Viola d’amore Concerto in D. PEROTTI Grave for Violin and Organ in g. PORPORA Sinfonia in G. PORTA Sinfonia in D. VIVALDI Sinfonia in G, RV 149 . Violin Concerto in Bb, RV 372

The focus on this disc is one of the most interesting women who was trained at the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice during the 18th century. Her name was Chiara della Pietà, also known as Chiaretta, and she was apparently left on the doorstep of the orphanage as an infant in 1718. By the age of 12 she had attained a reputation for her playing, thanks to her teacher, Anna Maria della Pietà, herself a pupil of Vivaldi. Although she never left the confines of the orphanage, she eventually attained an important position as maestro in1762, now preferring the viola d’amore over the violin for her own performances. By the time she died in 1791, her fame had begun to die away, as had that of the orphanage to which she had dedicated her entire life. Her diario or diary contains a plethora of materials, both musical and personal, that has only recently come to light as part of the scholarship surrounding the reconstruction of the Pietà library.

It is clear that Chiara was beloved by most of the maestri who taught at the orphanage, beginning with Vivaldi. Even Gaetano Latilla, the last and most luckless of the crew, seemed to like her, and she was somewhat of a composer herself, although her music has not yet been explored. This disc marks a beginning in the resurrection of the some 11,000 works contained within the Ospedale collection, especially those involving Chiara to some extent. Here one finds a program of works that one might feel would have been heard at one of the concerts there, and as an added bonus, there is a short DVD by Lucrezia le Moli that provides some visual substance to the music.

Apart from Vivaldi and perhaps Nicola Porpora, the names presented here are hardly household ones. Giovanni Porta (1675–1755) was one of Handel’s rivals, and a couple of his arias have appeared on a 2007 Berlin Classics disc entitled Mio vita, mio bene . Antonio Martinelli (1702–1782) and Andrea Bernasconi (1706–1784) are virtual unknowns, though the latter did contribute considerably to the development of opera in Munich in the 1770s. Fulgenso Perotti is lost in history, though he spent some four years at the Pietà, but his life before and after is unknown, save that he was an Augustinian monk. Finally, Gaetano Latilla (1711–1788) has on rare occasion popped up in the recording lists, including a nice recording of his opera buffa La finta cameriera on Opus 111 from 2000. Thus this collection of instrumental works offers yet another glimpse into the vibrant world of 18th-century instrumental composition, much of which conforms to the lyrical Neapolitan style that was favored in Venice.

The proof of how one might perceive this music and its original environment, of course, lies in the pieces themselves. The Porta Sinfonia has an energetic first movement with rushing strings that stop suddenly without warning to explore some off-beat harmonies and, just when one begins to revel in the return, a lyrical slow movement sneaks in with Vivaldian lines for the solo violin. The ripping finale seems like sort of a saltarello rhythmically, but it seems to go on for perhaps a bit long. The two actual Vivaldi works written expressly for La Chiara are typical of his style. In the sinfonia, the perpetual motion opening is followed by a nicely mincing slow movement in which the violin predominates. In the actual violin concerto, the solo part is a typical display piece (with some nice fermatas for what one presumes were cadenzas) filled with cross-string technique and double-stops. Clearly, the degree of difficulty poses no concerns for his soloist. The second movement is likewise mincing, as if the night watch creeps through the Venetian alleyways, discovering now and again moments requiring their more forceful intervention. My favorite work, however, is the concerto for viola d’amore, which begins with hammer stroke chords and a rather gnarly solo line for the chief instrument that ranges from the softer viola register right on up to the upper treble of the violin, interspersed with the parallel chords that are its trademark. There is even an interpolated cadenza.

Violinist and conductor Fabio Biondi keeps his tempos crisp where necessary, and has a nice knack of knowing just when to put the brakes on to emphasize the often abrupt changes that these composers use to heighten the contrasts. His tone as a soloist is singing and bright, but he is also adept at giving the pieces, such as the pastoral second movement of the viola d’amore concerto, the necessary lyrical touch. The ensemble of Europa Galante is excellent. This disc represents a wonderful selection of the Italian instrumental pieces of this period by composers who, for the most part, were known then but have faded into the fog of music history. Perhaps this will serve as yet another model of the interesting works that are yet to be discovered. This disc is well worth the effort to obtain. That there is a nice (if somewhat tame) DVD attached will be an added bonus.

FANFARE: Bertil van Boer

Product Description:

  • Release Date: February 25, 2014

  • UPC: 8424562234017

  • Catalog Number: GCD923401

  • Label: Glossa

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: Andrea Bernasconi, Antonio Martinelli, Antonio Vivaldi, Fulgenso Perotti, Gaetano Latilla, Giovanni Porta, Nicolo Porpora, Unspecified

  • Conductor: Fabio Biondi

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Europa Galante