The ‘other’ Albinoni, revealed here as an accomplished composer for the voice in the tradition of the Venetian baroque.
If we think of Albinoni beyond the ubiquitous and apocryphal Adagio (not so much arranged as concocted by a 20th-century musicologist, Giazotto), we may remember collections of lively oboe and violin concertos, maybe also some trio sonatas and works featuring solo flute and trumpet. But Albinoni, the composer of cantatas and operas?
This quartet of Italian musicians puts the record straight with a new recording of secular cantatas. In fact Albinoni married a soprano, Margherita Raimondi, and apparently had a fine singing voice himself. He composed around 50 cantatas, but only this Op.4 collection of twelve reached publication stage.
The cantatas follow a conventional pattern of paired recitatives and da capo arias, two or three per cantata, mostly themed on love lost and (sometimes) found. The texts are anonymous but they evidently draw on a knowledge of Tasso as well as earlier poets such as Dante and Petrarch.
Six cantatas are written for high, and six for low, female voice. Albinoni refrains from making the kind of demands on vocal technique as Handel or even Vivaldi, but he proves himself adept at evoking not only the languor and pathos inflicted by Cupid’s arrow but also a sense of context in the instrumental accompaniments. The bass part of the second cantata suggests an Arcadian burgeoning of spring, before a storm breaks in the following movement. A lover’s changing moods are portrayed through sinuous accompaniments to the voice, and a full armoury of ornaments and harmonic devices is deployed to paint the affecting picture of a sighing, lovelorn protagonist.
The harpsichordist and director Roberto Loreggian has an extensive discography on Brilliant Classics embracing all the great names of Baroque music, including Albinoni – the Op.1 Trio Sonatas (BC94789) – but also exploring much less-familiar repertoire such as the cello sonatas of Salvatore Lanzetti (BC95525). According to Gramophone’s review of the Albinoni album, ‘Cellist Francesco Galligioni dances the bass-line along, and there’s some immensely musical underpinning from keyboardist Roberto Loreggian.’
Nowadays Albinoni is foremost known for his instrumental works, but he wrote a staggering amount of vocal works, some 80 operas and a large quantity of Cantatas.
This new recording presents 12 Cantatas for solo voice, cello and harpsichord, works which show the great melodic genius of Albinoni, who himself was a singer and vocal teacher as well. The subject of most of the cantatas is Love, its sweetness and eroticism as well as its fear, despair and bitterness. Six cantatas for soprano and another six for contralto.
Contralto Elena Biscuola is specialized in Early Music and collaborated with Ton Koopman, Rinaldo Alessandrini and Alan Curtis. Mezzo soprano Silvia Frigato worked with Philippe Herreweghe, Ottavio Dantone, Rinaldo Alessandrini and others.