The world has not yet fully discovered the riches of the impressive music libraries and archives of Portugal. They testify to the often complex trajectories followed all over Europe by a repertoire of splendid pieces, many of them showing the extent to which the Italian style had taken root in eighteenth-century Portugal. The superb mass by Pergolesi recorded here is a highly characteristic example. But the ensemble Turicum wanted to go even further in their exploration of this repertoire, accompanying the mass with performances of works by composers now totally (and unjustly) unknown, such as Antonio Gallassi and David Perez, not to mention Leonardo leo, acknowledged in his own time as a supreme master of sacred music.
Much as I revere the composer Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), whom I regard as the epitome of musical genius, his preeminence is at least partly an artifact of modern musicology. Monteverdi's music - his madrigals, villanellaas and ritornellos, his masses, and especially his glorious Marina Vespers of 1610 - were all composed in a shared idiom of Italian musicians of his era; Monteverdi's greatness is not his innovation but his felicity. Even his operas were not as sui generis as the modern stagings might suggest, and his greatest opera, L'incoronazione di Poppea, was almost certainly partly the work of Francisco Cavalli… (amazon.com)
Farnace was apparently one of Vivaldi's favorite operas, because he mounted numerous productions in various cities, and wrote six versions of the score, more than of any of his other operas. The conventions of operatic vocal characterizations that came to be standard – higher voices in the sympathetic roles, and lower voices in villainous roles – had not yet been established, and Farnace features a baritone and contralto in the heroic roles, with a soprano as the villain. Soprano Adriana Fernández shines as the wicked Berenice, who is redeemed at the very last minute. She has a full, creamy voice that she deploys appealing agility and warmth. As Tamira, contralto Sara Mingardo sings with power, authority, and deep feeling. In the title role, baritone Furio Zanasi is appropriately heroic, with a rich, refined timbre and the expressive depth to create sympathy for the conflicted protagonist, but he doesn't always have the necessary strength at the bottom of his range. One of his arias, the lyrical and poignant "Gelido in ogni vena," is among the composer's loveliest creations.
The priest Giuseppe Cavallo was Maestro di Canto of the Conservatorio de Santa Maria de Loreto from 1672 until his death in 1684. Otherwise, virtually nothing is known about the composer, and it is only due to the musical archive of the Oratorio di Napoli, a treasure trove of rare scores, that a handful of Cavallo's works survive, including Il Giudizio Universale. This sacred oratorio presents Christ and Saint Michael, a pair of angels, two mortals, and four souls–two damned, two blessed–and begins with Christ commanding the angels to bring on the Last Judgment. What follows is a finely crafted musical drama, except for the confusion caused when the otherwise immaculately presented album fails to reveal which of the seven singers (two sopranos, three tenors, and one bass) is singing which parts. All you can be sure of is that Christ is the excellent bass, Giuseppe Naviglio.