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Giovanni Battista Bassani: La Tromba della Divina Misericordia

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  • Posted October 1, 2010

    Baroque beauty butchered

    This one really looked good on paper. I loved the 2002 recording of Giovanni Battista Bassani's oratorio La morte delusa on the Naïve label and looked forward to hearing more of his music. Padua-born Bassani (c. 1650-1716) made his name in Ferrara and was maestro di cappella of the city's cathedral. La Tromba della divina misercordia (roughly translated, The trumpet of divine mercy) is one of three surviving Bassani oratorios (he wrote 13). The tale is allegorical, highly theatrical and filled with striking arias, choruses and instrumental passages. Check out the pained lament, "Stillate pur, stillate" to hear just how good the work is.

    Like I said," looked good on paper." What can one say about the soloists? "They don't sing well" would be a place to start. If you've been listening to early music recordings coming from Italy you know that the country has produced some of the most beautiful voices currently on the scene. But it would seem that all of the good singers were on holiday when this group went into the studio. It would be unfair to single out any of the soloists for specific criticism. Each has problems with pitch and articulation, each ornaments sloppily and each lacks tonal beauty. This is some of the most flat-out ugly singing I've heard outside of my shower.

    The instrumentalists of StilModerno are not bad, the opening Sonata a tre Op. 5 is nicely done and the brief organ toccata that follows it is also well-executed. There is, however, a rhythmic flatness to most of the accompaniment and the simple fact is that they can't match up to the stellar groups coming out of Italy. Maybe they'd sound better if the recording quality was better or if they were featured in a purely instrumental record? This one is a big disappointment.

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