Naples was for long renowned as a city of virtuosi and it cultivated a strong tradition of instrumental music. This extended so far as the famed operatic composers of the day, such as Cimarosa and Paisiello, who also wrote important bodies of instrumental music. This disc is devoted to a very special niche amongst the instrumental music of the time, the Neapolitan Flute Concerto.
None of the quintet of composers’ names, I suspect, will be terribly well-known. Indeed some, most, or indeed all are to a large degree unfamiliar. That only adds to the anticipation of hearing their music. With no dates of publication or performance noted in the booklet, we can cautiously ascribe compositional dates, largely, to the period c. 1740-1770.
Nicola Bonifacio Logroscino scores highly for being one of the reigning opera buffo composers of the time. An organist and theatre composer he writes lyrical and melodic music for the transverse flute in his appealing and light-hearted Concerto. Another composer with a flair for the dramatic was Davide Perez who is also remembered for his sacred music. His concerto is confidently laid out and is cast in four movements. There are hints of shadows in the orchestral patina which adds some depth to the generally free-spirited solo writing.
Aniello Santangelo, who was active between about 1737 and 1771, was a violin teacher. His Concerto a quattro is attractive albeit a little sturdy, made the more so by some rather over-studied playing here from the original instrument group Le Musiche da camera. Much better, indeed much more graceful and elegant, is Giuseppe Sellitto’s Concerto, one of three concertos making premiere appearances on disc - the others are the Santangelo and the concluding work by Antonio Palella. Sellitto makes great play of imitative writing in his finale, to fine effect. Finally, Palla’s Concerto is in standard three-movement form but it’s the most varied of all the concertos in terms of texture and colour. Solo lines and answering phrases from the accompanying band are ingeniously done. In many ways this is the best reclamation and this first-ever recording will be, I hope, a spur to further investigation of the composer’s music.
Performances are efficient but not especially outstanding. The close recording emphasises soloist Renata Cataldi’s breaths more than is often comfortable. She clearly understands this music well, but sometimes the accompaniments, which lack brio, can begin to drag her down. As for the recording - well, the close-up acoustic has been noted. There are also a few editorial glitches. At the end of one track during the Logroscino a musician or engineer can be heard talking quite loudly, if briefly. This may outrage some, but I can’t say it bothers me. Even so, a cautious welcome.