[ Erato / Warner Classics / 3 CD/Book ]
Release Date: Friday 22 November 2019
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The latest album from Christina Pluhar and her instrumental ensemble L'Arpeggiata sheds new light on the chamber cantatas of 17th century Italian composer, Luigi Rossi. He wrote more than 300 of these works and Christina Pluhar's new double album includes an impressive number of 21 world premiere recordings, which are the fruit of Christina Pluhar's research among music manuscripts held in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and the Vatican Library.
"These cantatas are works of rare beauty," says Pluhar, who describes Luigi Rossi as "one of the shining lights of 17th-century Italian vocal music. Supremely inventive and extremely versatile, he juxtaposed styles within a single work, often shifting from intense recitative to mellifluous song, while also venturing into daring harmonic regions."
She has assembled a dazzling line-up of singers to perform the cantatas: sopranos Véronique Gens and Céline Scheen, mezzo-soprano Giuseppina Bridelli, and countertenors Philippe Jaroussky, Jakub Józef Orliński and Valer Sabadus.
Luigi Rossi, born in Puglia in 1597, was highly successful in his time, serving three of the most illustrious Italian dynasties - the Borghese and Barberini families in Rome and the Medici in Florence - and subsequently France's King Louis XIV. His L'Orfeo, which received its premiere in Paris in 1647, was among the first operas to be staged in France. Rossi is also associated with the first Parisian appearances by castrato singers - their voice-type was not integral to France's musical traditions.
Rossi had gone to Paris in 1646, where he joined the Barberinis, exiled from Rome the previous year following controversy over their handling of Papal funds. Some of their other musicians, including several castratos, also went to France with them. In Rome they had been noted for marking important occasions with commissions for masses, oratorios and operas, among them Rossi's Palazzo incantato (Enchanted Palace), inspired by Orlando Furioso, which enjoyed a great success in 1642.
At the time, the man who wielded the most power in France was not the King - just four years old when he came to the throne in 1643 - but his godfather and Chief Minister, Cardinal Mazarin. Mazarin, an Italian by birth, enjoyed close links with the Barberini family, which had played an important role in furthering his diplomatic career in the 1630s. He was also a great advocate of Italian style in the arts and it was thanks to him that L'Orfeo, a sumptuously scored work, was lavishly staged at the Palais-Royal before Louis XIV and his mother, Queen Anne of Austria. Rossi returned to Italy in 1650 and in due course another Italian-born composer of opera, Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-87), became the musical supremo at the court of the Sun King.