Niccolò JOMMELLI (1714-1774) Cantatas Giusti Numi (Didone Abbandonata) [14:21]
Partir conviene! Addio [23:17]
Perdono amata nice (Gelosia) [16:23]
E quando sara mai che alle mie pene [12:03]
Barbara Kusa (soprano), Lenka Torgersen & Cecilie Valter (violins), Andreas Torgersen (viola), Ilze Grudule (cello), Alena Hönigová (harpsichord & director)
rec. February 2012, St. Pantaleon, Switzerland
Full Italian text and translations in English and German KORAMANT RECORDS KR14002 [66:06]
Jommelli’s reputation remains somewhat in the shadow
of other of his contemporaries such as Glück, Pergolesi, and C.P.E.
Bach in that period of transition between the Baroque and Classical
eras. Jommelli has been to some extent rehabilitated through the revivals
of some of his operas in performance and on disc. This release also
demonstrates his accomplishments in the development of vocal music on
the smaller scale of the secular cantata, although this group of four
has been committed to disc before (review).
Barbara Kusa brings ravishing clarity and purity here in the unflagging
vitality of Jommelli’s melodies. The resonance of the recorded
acoustic also gives her performances an attractive bloom but not too
much, and that is matched by her restrained use of vibrato, only bringing
that to bear for greater dramatic effect when necessary. She tends to
draw a sensible distinction in her musical interpretations between the
rhetorical tone for the recitatives, and variously more lyrical or radiant
tone for the arias. But in the latter she is alert to the emotions expressed
by the text, such as love in the two numbers of Partir conviene!
Addio where the phrases ebb and flow into each other like an elegant
sigh. Her singing is also beautifully buoyant in the second aria of
E quando sera mai che alle mie pene, floating over the silken
strings. The one drawback of Kusa’s singing is that her tone can
be somewhat thin above a high G.
Four string players, and Alena Hönigová directing from the harpsichord,
alone provide the personable accompaniment. Sometimes the first violinist
and cellist seem more prominent than the second violinist and violist.
Otherwise their playing fills in the character and drama of the cantatas,
for example in the way that the scales and arpeggios are virtually thrown
across the strings in one section of the cantata which relates the fate
of Dido. This disc helps to fill in our knowledge of the development
of Italianate vocalism in the period immediately before Mozart and his
contemporaries on the operatic scene at the end of the 18th
century. It does so enjoyably and not as an academic exercise. It is
a small disappointment that Hönigová does not talk about the compositions
more in her liner notes, and their context within Jommelli’s output.