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With L’Amore innamorato – ‘Love in love’ – Christina Pluhar and L’Arpeggiata return to their own first great love, Italian music of the 17th century, and specifically to composer Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676).
A luminary of the glamorous and innovative world of Venetian opera, Cavalli was a protégé of Claudio Monteverdi – the composer around whom L’Arpeggiata built Il teatro d’amore, the ensemble’s first Warner Classics album, which was released in early 2009. “Cavalli’s music excites my passions”, says Christina Pluhar. He composed some 40 operas, some of which have achieved new currency since the 1960s, such as La Calisto, Il Giasone, L’Egisto and L’Ormindo and La Didone. Arias and instrumental numbers from six of his operas feature in L’Amore innamorato. The instrumentalists of L’Arpeggiata are joined for the album – which also includes pieces by two of Cavalli’s contemporaries, Girolamo Kapsperger and Andrea Falconieri – by two sopranos, the Catalan Núria Rial and the Czech Hana Blažíková.
While L’Arpeggiata’s recent Warner Classics CDs – Music for a While, Mediterraneo, Los Pájaros perdidos and Via Crucis – have explored fusions of cultures and musical styles, L’Amore innamorato adheres to the conventions of historically informed performance of Baroque music. The members of the ensemble use stringed, keyboard, wind and percussion instruments to flesh out Cavalli’s score, which comprises only a vocal line, basso continuo and indications for the ritornello (a recurring instrumental section). As Christina Pluhar points out, the line-up of instruments is unusually lavish: she herself performs on theorbo and harp and is joined by the other players who create a sumptuous soundworld, accompanying arias for goddesses and nymphs with a fascinating array of instruments: cornetto, violin, archlute, guitar, harp, psaltery, viola da gamba, lirone, cello, violone, double bass, organ, harpsichord and percussion.
In April 2015, after L’Arpeggiata performed L’Amore innamorato at Carnegie Hall, The New York Times wrote:
“In some ways, L’Arpeggiata represents the state of the art in early-music practice … The most compelling performers today have come to realize how much was left unsaid by composers in scores prepared on the run for use by performing colleagues who were, if not immediately at hand, at least immersed in the style of the period and locale. These performers see conjecture not as a worrisome chore but as an opportunity; improvisation as a matter of course; invention as a necessity.
L’Arpeggiata showed those traits in abundance in a delightful program on Tuesday, L’Amore innamorato: Arias by Francesco Cavalli … Núria Rial, a splendid Spanish soprano, sang numbers from operas including Calisto, Didone and Ormindo beautifully, and the ensemble filled out the 75-minute program with instrumental ditties by Cavalli and others.
The selections tended toward works with variations above repeating bass figures, which come as catnip to these players, inviting, as they do, the extemporization of new variations. Such forms are widespread in the Italian Baroque literature.
Cavalli’s operas have been gaining fitful exposure in recent years … Still, his music is not well known, and it was good to hear these delicious samples in something like their original form. Christina Pluhar, L’Arpeggiata’s artistic director, played theorbo throughout, giving a wonderful, firm basis to the sound.”
“Soloists Nuria Rial and Hana Blažiková are superb and the whole enterprise glows with commitment and panache.” Classical Music