Bononcini/A. Scarlatti Italian Cantatas
The Italian period-instrument Ensemble Aurora come together, to good effect, with the dusky-voiced mezzo-soprano Gloria Banditelli, recently heard in recordings of Cavalli (Harmonia Mundi, 7/89) and Rossini (Decca, 9/89). This five-year-old group follow up their stylish versions of Corelli trio sonatas (Tactus/Conifer—reviewed on page 1854) with a CD of Italian cantatas, demonstrating their ease and affinity for the contemporary vocal genres which, they profess, originally inspired them. Banditelli fascinates us with her enchantingly androgynous voice. She sings with style and control and is always alert to the nuances of the texts. Whether by the artifice of the players or a trick of engineering, the timbre of the ensemble seems to capture and complement the dark richness of her voice.
The cantata attributed to Alessandro Scarlatti, Bella madre de'fiori is, to my ear, the most attractive of the three works. It contains all the best loved baroque devices—a walking bass in the sinfonia, piquant chromaticism over pedals, profusions of intoxicating melismas, sequences and suspensions—as well as a versatile range of vocal forms, recitative, arioso, aria and arietta, ranged in a manner calculated to please; the delicacy of the performance seals its success. The changes in tempo at moments of particular intimacy in ''Vanne, o caro, su le sponde'' (''for where'er you go my sighs will follow you among the winds'') achieve an almost spiritual quality, also evident in the last line of the final recitative (''til Love betimes with healing sleep assuages her tears'').
The Bononcini cantatas, though less pretentious, are performed with equal attention to detail. In the prelude of Il lamento d'Olimpia, the delicate gestures of the affettuoso are balanced by the perkiness of the trills in the succeeding allegro. The feeling of the undulating waves in ''Vasto mar'' is cunningly conveyed by the instrumentalists while in the final aria Banditelli projects the inner strength and poise that comes from seeing truth (''Creator of a thousand deceptions, he swore constancy with his lips yet in his heart was treacherous''). The lovely cantabile melodies of the opening aria of Care luci del mio bene, belying the pain and disappointment of the text, are beautifully expressed by both singer and instrumentalists.'