Una Follia di Napoli - Concerti e Sinfonie per Flauto
Domenico SARRO (1679-1744)
Concerto XI in a minor [10:36]
Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725)
Improvisation upon the Partite Follia di Spagna [11:13]
Nicola FIORENZA (170-1764)
Sinfonia in a minor [10:25]
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
Sinfonia No. 1 in A [4:11]
Francesco BARBELLA (1692-1732)
Concerto III in C [10:59]
Francesco MANCINI (1672-1737)
Sonata XI in g minor [10:41]
Leonardo LEO? (1694-1744)
Concerto in G [14:35]
Maurice Steger (recorder)
Fiorenza de Donatis, Andrea Rognoni, Anaïs Chen (violin), Stefano Marcocchi
(viola), Mauro Valli (cello), Vanni Moretto (double bass), Brigitte
Gasser (violetta, viola da gamba, lirone), Daniele Caminiti (archlute,
theorbo, guitar), Margit Übellacker (psalterium), Naoki Kitaya (harpsichord,
rec. November 2011, Église réformée, Arlesheim, Switzerland. DDD
HARMONIA MUNDI HMC 902135 [CD: 72:40; DVD: 26:20]
If Naples and the recorder are mentioned in one breath it is usually
a manuscript with concertos or sonatas for recorder and strings which
springs to mind. It is known as Manoscritto di Napoli 1725,
which is the year that is mentioned in the manuscript. It includes 24
pieces, according to the title page Concerti di Flauto, although
the individual pieces are called sonata. This indicates that
at that time these two terms were used more or less indiscriminately.
Twelve concertos are from the pen of Francesco Mancini. The other pieces
were written by various composers from Naples, among them Alessandro
In his liner-notes Dinko Fabris makes an attempt to explain the composing
of recorder concertos at this particular time. "The Neapolitan
repertory for the instrument was virtually non-existent before this
date", Fabris writes. That could be true but is hard to prove.
It is quite possible that more pieces had been written which have not
survived. Let us not forget that soon the recorder would become obsolete,
and recorder pieces may have been thrown away.
Even if his assumption is right, his explanation seems to be rather
implausible. In 1725 the German flautist Johann Joachim Quantz, the
flute teacher of Frederick the Great, visited Naples. Fabris suggests
that the flux of recorder concertos may have been a direct effect of
his visit. However, Quantz was a player of the transverse flute rather
than the recorder, although he probably was well able to play the latter
as well. It is hard to see why composers would be inspired by a flute
player to write for the recorder. Moreover, the above-mentioned Mancini
had already published a set of twelve sonatas for recorder and basso
continuo one year earlier. It was printed in London, since England was
a centre of recorder playing. In addition, it is quite possible that
the concertos in the collection of 1725 were mostly written earlier,
well before Quantz's visit.
It is mostly rather hard, if not impossible, to explain why some genres
emerge and at some time disappear. It is likely that it was often a
matter of supply and demand. For instance, a German aristocrat who was
an avid player of the cello commissioned various composers to write
cello sonatas and concertos for him. Many sonatas by Caldara, Platti
and Vivaldi are the fruit of his demand. Fabris mentions an example
of a recorder player who could have asked composers to write music for
him. That man was the Austrian Count Aloys Thomas Raimund von Harrach
who stayed in Naples from 1728 to 1733. "After his departure, the
Neapolitan repertory for recorder evaporated as quickly as it had once
appeared (...)", Fabris writes.
Whatever the reasons for the composing of music for recorder in Naples
in the 1720s may have been, recorder players are happy with them. The
concertos from the above-mentioned manuscript are of fine quality, and
there are also other pieces from Naples available for their instrument.
Only two compositions on this disc are from the manuscript of 1725,
the concertos by Sarro (or Sarri) and Barbella. The programme also includes
one of the sonatas from Mancini's collection of 1724 and a concerto
by Nicola Fiorenza. Only a small number of instrumental works from the
latter's pen are known, among them the Sinfonia in a minor.
He wrote at least one other piece for recorder and strings.
The disc ends with music by Leonardo Leo, one of the most prominent
composers of Naples in the second quarter of the 18th century. He was
most famous for his operas. His instrumental output is rather small;
the best-known compositions in this genre are his six cello concertos.
The Concerto in G is not included in the work-list in New
Grove. The reason is that it is spurious: the German manuscript
in which it has been preserved, attributes it to a certain 'Le
Cevalier Amadée'. Moreover, it indicates that the solo part is
written for the Flauto Traverso. Its character is quite different
from the other pieces on this disc. It is modelled after the concertos
by Vivaldi, with three movements, whereas the other concertos are in
four, after the Corellian sonata da chiesa. The solo part is
also more extended and more pronounced. This is no longer an ensemble
piece, but a full-blown solo concerto in the modern style which was
in fashion in the mid-18th century.
The programme also includes a sinfonia for strings and basso continuo
by Domenico Scarlatti, from a collection of 16 which is preserved in
the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. His father is also represented,
with the Follia di Spagna, one of his harpsichord works. Rather,
the performers use it as a vehicle for improvisations. I can't
quite figure out how they deal with the original material; the liner-notes
don't mention it. It is the least convincing part of this recording:
the various instruments have their solos, including the psalterium,
and that results in a lack of coherence.
Ironically the concerto by Leo, originally intended for the transverse
flute, comes off best. The earlier concertos are generally well-played,
but unfortunately Maurice Steger's playing is sometimes marred
by eccentricities. The third movement from the Sonata in g minor
is an example. Steger adds quite a lot of ornamentation which is good,
but I feel that he sometimes goes a little over the top. In some movements
I signalled some vibrato; I am not sure whether that is used as an ornament.
I am also surprised by the amount of legato playing, especially in the
slow movements. The rhythms are not as pronounced as they should be.
On balance this is a nice recording to have, in particular since the
repertoire is not that well-known. My enthusiasm is just a little inhibited
by some aspects of Steger's playing which I consider as mannerisms
which could well get on one's nerves on repeated listening. The
DVD offers a documentary from the recording venue with fragments from
the programme and Steger talking about the music and his interpretation.
Short personal notes in the booklet would have been a better option;
otherwise the DVD doesn't add anything essential to the CD and
Johan van Veen