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Giovanni Felice SANCES (1600-1679) Capricci Poetici, 1649
Aria prima: Che nel Regno almo d'Amore [4:06]
Aria seconda: Vibrate pur vibrate dalle pupille [5:50]
Aria terza: Ho il cor ferito e morirò [5:03]
Aria quarta: Del qual virtude Filli si chiude [4:47]
Aria quinta: Amo e sento nel petto [6:23]
Aria sesta: Perché vecchia gli dissi un dì per gioco [5:35]
Cantata prima: Chi non sa cosa sia Amor io gliel dirò [5:49]
Cantata seconda: Or che chiarissime da l'alto ciel [6:17]
Cantata terza: Son amante e son fedele [6:08]
Canzonetta a due soprani: Che sperasti o mio cor [5:41]
Irene Morelli (soprano), Beatrice Mercuri (mezzo-soprano), Diego Cantalupi (archlute), Giuseppe Schinaia (harpsichord)
rec. November 2013, Castello Caetani Trevi, Lazio, Italy DDD
Texts and translations available online TACTUS TC601903 [56:20]
Giovanni Felice Sances was one of the main representatives of the post-Monteverdi generation. He spent most of his career at the imperial court in Vienna, which in the early 17th century came under the spell of the Italian style. There he mostly composed sacred music.
Sances was born in Rome and entered the Collegio Germanico as a soprano in 1609. In 1614 he was expelled, because of his unauthorized participation in the performance of an opera. The next 20 years he worked in Padua and Venice, where he established connections with rich members of the local nobility. In Venice he also published his first collections of music: a book with cantatas in two volumes came from the press in 1633. Three years later it was followed by a further collection of cantatas. In 1636 his first opera, Ermiona, was performed in Padua; this work has been lost. In 1638 he published two books with motets, again in Venice.
At that time he was already in Vienna; he was appoined musico, which meant both performer and composer. At that time the Kapellmeister was Antonio Bertali. When the latter died in 1669, Sances was appointed his successor; he held this position until his death in 1679. He spent most of his time writing sacred music, both for the regular services and for special occasions, such as sepolcri, to be performed during Holy Week. Most of his sacred output has been preserved in manuscript, but some collections were printed, all of them in Venice, between 1640 and 1648.
Apparently he didn't compose much secular music. The Capricci Poetici of 1649 is one of only two collections of secular music which was printed; the second and last dates from 1657. The Capricci Poetici were dedicated to Nicolò Sagredo, who had been his patron and was at the time Venetian ambassador to the Habsburg court. It comprises two volumes: the first - recorded here - includes six arias and three cantatas for solo voice and one canzonetta for two voices, all with basso continuo. The second consists of two dramatic madrigals.
There is little drama in this music. Despite the different indications there is not much difference between the arias and the cantatas. They are all strophic and deal with (unhappy) love. Only in some pieces we find some declamatory passages, such as in Vibrate pur vibrate dalle pupille (Cantata II) and Del qual virtude Filli si chiude (Aria IV). The strophic form restricts the possibilities of text expression. However, there are some examples of it, such as the closing of the Cantata II, Or che chiarissime da l'altro ciel: "And I leave in full torment". Comparable texts are included in the Aria V, Amo e sento nel petto. The last two lines of the even stanzas express the same thoughts: "Alas, how great is my pain to be a lover and sigh for love". Here Sances uses marked modulations to express the text.
I am not sure that it was a very good idea to present these pieces on one disc. Maybe a mixture of the two parts of the Capricci Poetici, or a mixture with other pieces from Sances's pen, had been preferable. The scoring is the same and as there seems to be no difference in tessitura one wonders why two singers were engaged, especially as their voices are not very different. Unfortunately, Beatrice Mercuri, being a mezzo-soprano, has some problems with the top-notes which sometimes sound a bit stressed.
I find it hard to really assess the quality of the pieces performed here. I have heard some of Sances's music which I greatly appreciated. Therefore I assume that it is due to the performances that I found it hard to concentrate on listening to these arias and cantatas. The two singers have nice voices and their performances are certainly stylish, but not very expressive. There is too little difference in colour and in dynamics. I tend to think that more could have been made of these pieces. The Aria VI, for instance, includes some humorous elements: "Just because I called her old for fun now my love is angry and spits curses at me. Oh, betraying thoughts, I joked and hurt and spoke the truth for the future." Little of that comes off here.
I would like to hear these pieces in better performances. This disc seems to me only worth being investigated by those who have a special interest in Sances or the music of his time. But the general music lover will probably not find these performances very interesting.