|Jessica Gould and Diego Cantalupi at the Fabbri Mansion Library|
Wednesday night's weather was atrocious but that didn't stop fans of Salon Sanctuary Concerts from finding their way to the stunning but geographically inaccessible Fabbri Mansion to hear music of the early 17th c. As a matter of fact, the concert was sold out and a second performance had to be scheduled to accommodate everyone who wanted to share in the artistry of soprano Jessica Gould and theorbist Diego Cantalupi. We New Yorkers will go anywhere in any weather when we sniff out a good thing.
And a very good thing it was! In a velvet gown, Ms. Gould was the image of a diva (think Tosca) but sang in a manner that expressed the spiritual nature of the text. As Founder and Artistic Director of Salon Sanctuary Concerts, Ms. Gould is known for her diligent scholarship. Every program is a means of "viewing history through the prism of music".
The period represented in this program, entitled I Viaggi di Caravaggio is the early 17th c. and the place is Rome. The Catholic church was re-asserting its dominance in a movement known as the Counter-Reformation. Adherents to the faith were gained by utilizing the unparalleled power of the arts. Spirituality and sensuality were mingled in architecture, music, and the paintings of Caravaggio--and also in the licentious behavior of the clergy.
Listening to the music on the program, one could not help but observe the bones of rigid adherence to Catholic doctrine clothed in the sensuality of the human voice and the theorbo, so perfectly played by Mr. Cantalupi. Those of you who were unable to snag tickets to this concert may be interested in the newly released CD also entitled I Viaggi di Caravaggio, the tracks of which are a close replica of the concert.
Ms. Gould does not adhere to the rigid customs of Baroque period singing. Of course, we have no record of how these works sounded four centuries ago, but contemporary performances often seem sterile, whereas Ms. Gould's performance was luscious and involving. It was always obvious that she knew what she was singing about as she shared her passion with the audience.
The texts were often disturbing, dealing as they do with the crucifixion. But the music is always gorgeous and deeply affecting. If one did not understand Italian and Latin, one could be at an advantage! But if one does, one found the enunciation clear.
Melismatic singing appears in almost every song, or should we call them prayers! Sometimes they stretch into lengthy vocalises. In Giovanni Antonio Rigatti's "Ave, Regina Caelorum" we enjoyed the joyful central section which Ms. Gould colored differently.
Contrasts abounded through this narrow slice of early 17th-century repertoire. The tender sweet lullaby "Figlio Dormi" made the horror of Tarquinio Merula's "Canzonetta spirituale sopra alla 'Nanna' " which offers Mary’s sorrow-filled premonition of her babe's tragic future, all the more stark and shocking.
Giovanni Felice Sances' "Stabat Mater dolorosa" ended with an exquisite "Amen" but not until Ms, Gould let loose on the word "paradisi". We heard the same florid singing in Benedetti Ferrari's "Queste pungenti spine" on the word "saette" (thunderbolts). This fioritura and changes of vocal colors keeps things interesting!
It was a great idea to alternate the vocal works with instrumental ones, performed solo by Mr. Cantalupi. All the selections were composed by the same composer Girolamo Kapsberger, who, if we are not mistaken, was the teacher of Girolamo Frescobaldi, whose aria "Se l'aura spira" so enthralled us last month when sung by Anna Caterina Antonacci.
"Toccata IV" had a meditative quality and made use of intervals of a second. "Toccata VII" was similarly meditative but made far more demands for virtuosity on the artist. There were exciting scale passages and descents into the lowest register of that most complicated instrument, the theorbo. "Canzon I" had a lot of contrast and some lovely arpeggiated chords and trills.
But our favorites were the gentle "Sarabanda" in 3/4 time and the lively "Bergamasca" in duple meter which made us want to get up and dance!
(c) meche kroop