Notturno: L'Escadron volant de la Reine
The enterprising L’Escadron Volant de la Reine have devised a programme of Lamentations for Holy Week by three composers associated closely with Baroque Naples – although none was Neapolitan by birth.
At the age of about 18 the Venetian Cristofaro Caresana (c1640-1709) arrived in Naples to work as a tenor and organist at the Royal Chapel, and he held various eminent posts in the city throughout his career. His first lesson for the Tenebrae liturgy on Good Friday is sung in a direct yet eloquent manner by Eugénie Lefebvre, and the ensemble of strings, organ and theorbo plays with emotional breadth.
The Apulian Gaetano Veneziano (1665-1716) enrolled to study at Naples’s conservatory Santa Maria di Loreto when he was only 10 years old and eventually became director of music at the Royal Chapel. In his third lesson for Tenebrae on Good Friday, Lefebvre’s ardently poetic singing is matched stride for stride by responsively contoured playing; the pathos-laden slower and softer sections are spellbinding.
The Sicilian Alessandro Scarlatti’s career juggled prestigious patrons and positions in Naples and Rome, but some scholars suggest that his set of Lamentazioni per la Settimana Santa might have been written in about 1706 for Ferdinando de’ Medici in Florence; the first lesson for Tenebrae on Holy Thursday receives an unfettered performance that shows clearly the link between the previous generation of Neapolitans and the next to come (Pergolesi).
A few Scarlatti pieces provide some instrumental contrasts between the lessons, including an exquisitely played four-part sonata for strings (without harpsichord) and two sinfonias from Roman oratorios. An auspicious recording debut, although those interested in this repertoire should investigate I Turchini’s broader anthology from the heaps of lessons by Caresana and Veneziano, and all six of Scarlatti’s Lamentations recorded by Ensemble Aurora.