I Turchini explore four Lamentations of Jeremiah for Holy Week in late- 17th-century Naples composed by Cristoforo Caresana (c1640-1709) and Gaetano Veneziano (1665-1716), who was reputedly the favourite pupil of influential master Francesco Provenzale and who later became the principal assistant of Alessandro Scarlatti. All of these Tenebrae are scored frugally for solo high voice, strings and continuo, and are sung with suitable solemnity by Neapolitan soprano Valentina Varriale. The project has been prepared in close consultation with musicologist Dinko Fabris, whose fascinating booklet essay places the lessons by Caresana and Veneziano into a wider context by giving a helpful introduction to the musical celebrations of Holy Week in Baroque Naples.
The concise Lamentations by Caresana (dated 1686) provide Varriale with opportunities to beautifully emote long, arching phrases that convey restrained yet judicious word-painting, and the instrumental writing is interpreted by I Turchini’s string ensemble (3‑3‑1‑1‑1) with an excellent synthesis of mournful piety and gracefulness. Moreover, Varriale’s voice and I Turchini’s accompaniments are tuned and phrased immaculately. Veneziano’s longer lessons are livelier and display an intricate combination of elaborate dance-like sections (sometimes with concertante cello), pastoral ritornellos, penitential chromatic passages and echoes of the stile antico. A sonata of four contrasting movements by Giuseppe Antonio Avitrano (c1670-1756) provides some respite between the two sets of Lamentations. It is a tribute to Antonio Florio’s direction that one never notices his interference with the natural flow of these fine performances.