MARCO MARAZZOLI (1602–1662) Oratorio di Santa Caterina   A vivid account of the miracle of Catherine of Alexandria, who eloquently counsels the Romans on spiritual love, endures torture and imprisonment, overcomes the killing wheel and finally dies by the sword. Santa Caterina Katherine Watson soprano Testo Nadine Balbeisi soprano Massimino Christian Immler bass Soldato I Juan Sancho tenor Soldato II/Speranza Steve Dugardin countertenor Fede Emily Van Evera soprano BERNARDO PASQUINI (1637–1710) Lamento di Cain Cain Emily Van Evera
Atalante - Reliquie di Roma II: Caro Sposo
ATALANTE ERIN HEADLEY - director Siobhán Armstrong arpa doppia Jörg Jacobi harpsichord Erin Headley lirone, viola da gamba Claire Duff and Hannah Tibell violins
Atalante and its inspired director must be congratulated for bringing together musicianship and scholarship in a way that is, in the end, truly revelatory. read more Iain Fenlon Early Music Performed as here with great care and the lightest of touches under director Erin Headley, the best is strikingly beautiful.  read more Andrew Clement The Guardian Another fine disc by this ensemble  read more Johan van Veen MusicWeb International Another one of those CD's that deserve a cornucopia of stars instead of a mere 5 read more Customer review
Atalante and its inspired director must be congratulated for bringing together musicianship and scholarship in a way that is, in the end, truly revelatory. Rossi’s ‘Lament of the Blessed Virgin’ that concludes his Oratorio per la Settimana Santa might be thought of as a premonition of the second of Atalante’s two records, Reliquie di Roma II: Caro Sposo (Destino Classics/ Nimbus Alliance NI6185, rec 2012, 62'), which features a complete performance of Marazzoli’s Oratorio di Santa Caterina. Transcribed, as is so much of the music on these records, from a manuscript in the Barberini collection in the Vatican Library, it falls into the traditional two halves, each of which finished with a five-voice madrigal pointing up the moral of the story. Here the instrumental ensemble, reduced to double harp, harpsichord, lirone, viola da gamba and two violins, places a greater reliance on the chordal support provided by the lirone. And although the role of St Catherine herself is provided for in the greater share of the work’s recitatives and arias, it is ‘Piango la sua sventura’, in which a Roman soldier laments the saint’s impending death that effectively inaugurates the final drama. Following a series of exchanges in which the two rehearse the arguments for and against martyrdom, the music flowers into the captivatingly poignant bel canto style of ‘Caro sposo’, Catherine’s final beatific outpouring before making the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of the Redeemer. This is surely the saint’s most ravishing aria in the entire work, though she is also provided with others, notably ‘O care pene’ and ‘O soave catena’, where the full dramatic and expressive potentialities of Marazzoli’s plangent style are exploited to the full. Katherine Watson rises to the challenge in a series of sensitively shaped and powerfully effective deliveries, exhibiting breathtaking vocal agility and control in the more luxurious passages, while a sequence of finely chiselled performances from Christian Immler as Massimeno, the principal male character in the story, provide an eloquent counterbalance. Atalante and its inspired director must be congratulated for bringing together musicianship and scholarship in a way that is, in the end, truly revelatory. Iain Fenlon Early Music Performed as here with great care and the lightest of touches under director Erin Headley, the best is strikingly beautiful... Marco Marazzoli (1602-1662) was a priest and composer who entered the service of Cardinal Berberini in Rome in 1626. His output did include operas, but Marazzoli devoted more of his energy to the oratorio, at least seven of which were to Italian texts, rather than the usual Latin. The most significant of them was the last, this Oratorio di Santa Caterina, completed in 1660, and based upon the life of the martyr Saint Catherine, daughter of the king of Alexandria. The only surviving source of the oratorio (in the Vatican library) is badly damaged, and so this recording, the latest in Atalante's series devoted to works from 17th-century Rome, is based in part on a reconstruction. Some of it may be routine, but performed as here with great care and the lightest of touches under director Erin Headley, the best is strikingly beautiful, especially Piango la tua Sventura, the lament accompanied by a lirone that is sung by a Roman soldier just before Catherine is put to death. The disc also includes an aria, another lament, from Cain e Abel by Bernado Pasquini, a Roman composer some 30 years younger than Marazzolli. Andrew Clements The Guardian Another fine disc by this ensemble. Atalante was founded in 2007 by Erin Headley. Their first disc was devoted to laments of four ladies: Helen of Troy, Queen Artemisia, Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary, and was reviewed here. For this second disc Headley has turned her attention to the genre of the oratorio which was of great importance in Italy and specifically in Rome during the 17th century. Although Giacomo Carissimi can't be considered its inventor, he was the main contributor to the genre in the mid-17th century. It didn't take long for the oratorio to become very popular. On the one hand it was a tool in the hands of the Counter Reformation to spread its message, on the other it was an alternative to opera, a genre which didn’t go down that well with the ecclesiastical authorities. Oratorios had different subjects, but were quite dramatic. Whereas Carissimi's oratorios were largely directed towards a sophisticated audience who knew Latin, the oratorio is in Italian and aimed at a wider audience. Marco Marazzoli was from Parma and was ordained a priest, probably in 1625. The next year he moved to Rome. It is suggested he was taken there by Cardinal Ippolito Aldobrandini, who returned from Parma to Rome in November of that year. For the largest part of his career he was at the service of Cardinal Antonio Barberini, a member of a family which played an important role in the church. It gave him the opportunity to compose operas, first in Rome but later also in Ferrara and Venice. From 1643 to 1645 he stayed in Paris, composing and performing cantatas and ballets. After his return to Rome he found the Barberini family in exile, and that is when he started to compose oratorios, both in Latin and in Italian. The Oratorio di Santa Caterina was probably his last contribution to the genre, according to Erin Headley dating from around 1660. The story revolves around St Catherine, daughter of King Costus of Alexandria. After she inherited her father's lands the Roman emperor Maxentius came to Alexandria to perform a great ceremony for his gods. According to tradition he fell in love with her, and asked her to become a lady at his court, only second to his wife. Being a devout Christian she refused. Under the threat of torture the emperor wanted to force her to renounce her faith. She refused firmly, and paid for that with her life. The libretto was written by Lelio Orsini, one of the most eminent librettists in Rome. As was customary the oratorio is split into two parts, each concluded with a five-part chorus, called madrigale. The story of an oratorio was always told by a testo, comparable with the Evangelist in 18th-century German oratorio passions. His role - here performed by a soprano - is rather limited, for instance in comparison with the oratorios of Carissimi. The core of the work is the dialogue between St Catherine and the emperor, who here bears the name of Massimo. The opposition between the two characters is quite dramatic, firstly because of their dialogue in the form of recitatives, but also because of the different kinds of music they have to sing. Massimo is rude, using his power to force his will upon St Catherine and not able to deal with her steadfastness. St Catherine, on the other hand, is unflappable and answers every move of the emperor by emphasizing her trust in God. In her last aria she speaks to Jesus as “caro sposo e Redentore” - dear spouse and Redeemer. The contrast is underlined by the scoring of the basso continuo: in the recitatives St Catherine is mostly supported by the harp, whereas Massimo is accompanied by the more penetrating sounds of the harpsichord. The largest part of the work consists of recitatives, but they are interrupted by mostly rather short, but highly expressive arias. In particular the arias of St Catherine are moving, like the one I have already referred to, but also ‘Deh' non più’, early in the second part and ‘Alme temete’ at the end of part one. The closing episode of the first part is especially interesting because of the use of bassi ostinati. That was a common habit at the time, but here it is also related to the content of the oratorio, and in particular the character of St Catherine. The main feature of a basso ostinato is the repetition of the same pattern, and in this case this can be interpreted as an expression of St Catherine’s perseverance. Her stance is supported by Speranza (Hope) and Fede (Faith). “What motivated us to revive the oratorio was the moving soldier's lament with lirone accompaniment”, Erin Headley writes in the booklet. That lament is in the second part, just before St Catherine is going to die. After her death it is the same soldier who expresses the moral message of this oratorio: “He who does not possess heaven possesses nothing”, which is then repeated in the madrigale à 5 which closes the oratorio. The main roles are taken by Katherine Watson and Christian Immler. The former is certainly not chosen because of her Christian name. She turns out to be an excellent choice because of her vocal qualities. She portrays St Catherine perfectly, with an impressive account of the recitatives in truly speechlike manner. The beauty and sweetness of her voice is suitable for her arias whose expressive character is fully explored. Christian Immler is very convincing as emperor Massimo, and one can hear his increasing anger about St Catherine's uncompromising stance. The smaller roles of the soldiers, the testo and Faith and Hope are appropriately sung. Juan Sancho is particularly good in the above-mentioned lament with lirone. One probably has to get used to the frequent shifts from falsetto into chest register by Steve Dugardin. In earlier years I have heard him doing this with more ease. I wonder whether a high tenor - like the French hautecontre - would have been a better choice. Also inspired by the lirone is the extract from Caino e Abele, an oratorio by Bernardo Pasquini. We hear the lament of Cain after he has been banished by God for murdering Abel: “Where, alas, can I hide (...), wretched and abhorred by the world, hateful to the heavens?” In a way I am disappointed by this choice: this oratorio is only available in a recording from 1990 which was recently reissued. In my review I commented on a lack of drama and the omission of the lirone in the lira (da gamba) part. The extract on this disc means that we can forget seeing Atalante recording the complete oratorio. That said, Emily Van Evera sings the part of Cain very well. It rounds off another very fine disc by this ensemble. The repertoire of vocal music of a dramatic character of the mid- 17th century in Rome is voluminous. It will probably be more difficult to make a choice than to find music to perform. The quality of the Roman music of this time and the standard of the performances make me look forward to upcoming projects from Atalante. Johan van Veen Music Web International Another one of those CD's that deserve a cornucopia of stars instead of a mere 5 Marazzoli was born in Parma sometime between 1600 and 1610, the sources for his birthdate being many and confused, with no record of his baptism having been found. He took holy orders and was presumably ordained priest about 1625. He was supposedly a student of Allegri (the one of "Miserere" fame), though other sources say Giuseppe Gamberti was his teacher. According to his autograph will, Marazzoli moved to Rome in 1626, which is the first reliable information we have about his life. Perhaps he was taken there, in the company of Domenico Mazzocchi, by Cardinal Ippolito Aldobrandini, who returned to Rome from Parma on 7 November 1626. We do know that he very quickly became famous as a harp virtuoso, since he earned himself the nickname Marco dell'arpa. Some time afterwards Marazzoli entered the service of Cardinal Antonio Barberini the younger. In 1631 Marazzoli, together with such well-known musicians as Landi and Filippo Vitali, accompanied the cardinal when he went as papal legate to Urbino. Early in 1637 Antonio Barberini became protector of French affairs at Rome, where he remained until the Barberinis engaged in the War of Castro in 1641. Marazzoli entered the cardinal's new household as aiutante di camera in 1637, and the Barberini family secured for him a post as tenor in the papal chapel on 23 May. He was later made a bussolante by Pope Urban VIII. He had already, since 1634, held a benefice at Antonio Barberini's basilica, S Maria Maggiore, which continued until his death. Not until 1639 did Marazzoli gain the position of a musico in the household of Antonio Barberini, and it is therefore somewhat difficult to trace his activities as a composer before this date. He did, however, write the music for the comedy-ballet La pazzia d'Orlando for Carnival 1638 and the intermedi to Chi soffre speri for Carnival 1639, both performed in the Barberini palace. From 1640 his compositional activities moved from Rome to Ferrara (a bridgehead of the papal dominions) and Venice. His opera L'Amore trionfante dello Sdegno (L'Armida) was written to celebrate a wedding in February 1641 in Ferrara, where Marazzoli is said to have stayed from July 1640 to March 1641. After the victorious Castro battle, Marazzoli, went to Venice. According to Capponi, Marazzoli was invited there to revise Vitali's Narciso et Ecco for Carnival 1642. During the same carnival Marazzoli's own opera Gli amori di Giasone e d'Isifile was given at the Teatro SS Giovanni e Paolo. Back in Rome by mid-1642, Marazzoli succeeded, through the intervention of Antonio Barberini with the pope, in securing leave of absence to travel to Paris, at Cardinal Mazarin's invitation, with a company of Italian musicians including the singers Leonora Baroni and Atto Melani (the latter a subject of a brilliant recent biography "Portrait of a Castrato" by Roger Freitas). At the court of Anne of Austria in Paris he composed chamber cantatas with which he delighted the queen, sometimes moving her to tears. Through his appearance at the French court, Marazzoli preceded Cavalli in introducing the new Italian cantata style with the virtuoso Atto Melani, who had sung leading roles in operas by Rossi, Cavalli and Cesti, showing off the latest fashions of composing and singing in Rome. Marazzoli can be said to have paved the way for Cavalli's invitation by Mazarin, at the suggestion of Atto Melani, for Cavalli to compose an opera for the celebration of the marriage of Louis XIV to Maria Theresa, daughter of the King of Spain. Cavalli was very reluctant to accept the commission, but in the end, Cavalli left for France in April or May 1660. The large fee and the guarantee that his salary in as organist as St. Mark's in Venice would be paid during his absence. Money makes opera composers go round even more than the world. Unfortunately, Mazarin died in March 1661, which immediately made life sour for Italian musicians, because the French clique of composers - led by a Frenchified Italian, Lolli, or as we know him today, Lully and his patrons, which included Louis XIV usurped the predilection for Italian composers supported by Mazarin. This is not a review of a Cavalli opera, however, so suffice it to say that Cavalli did write and perform Ercole Amante for the Sun King in spite of Lully's intrigues against him. The myth goes that upon his return to Venice in 1662, he was so disgusted with his French experience that he resolved never to compose operas again. There is truth in this, since in a letter of 8 August he declared that he had left France resolved never to work for the theatre again. This statement has been interpreted as disillusionment over the delays in producing and the reception of Ercole amante. But it may just as well reflect his large financial reward from the French court (including a diamond ring `bizzarramente e gentilmente lavorato'), which would have freed him from any necessity to earn his living by the composition of operas. Nonetheless, he was to compose another 6 operas before his death, proving that old habits die hard (or that he spent too much time gambling and whatever else one did in the Venetian casinos at the time). But back to Marazzoli, whose fortunes were nowhere as lucrative as Cavalli's in the long term: When he returned to Rome in April 1645 Marazzoli found himself deprived of opportunities for opera because of the Barberini family's exile in France (1645-53). He therefore took to writing oratorios, including five Latin works almost certainly composed for the Arciconfraternita del SS Crocifisso. Three extant Italian oratorios may have been written for the Roman Filippini about 1650. 1653 saw the return of Antonio Barberini to Rome and the reconciliation of the Barberini and Pamphili families. For the marriage of Taddeo Barberini's son Maffeo with Olimpia Giustiniani (a niece of Innocent X) a new opera was commissioned from Marazzoli by Antonio Barberini. Marazzoli assumed the role of principal composer for the new Barberini opera series. For Carnival 1655 he composed Le armi e gli amori, but the conclave to elect a new pope after the death of Innocent X caused the production to be postponed. At Christmas 1655 Queen Christina of Sweden arrived in Rome, and in her honour the Barberini family presented Marazzoli's allegorical opera La Vita humana during Carnival 1656 (Le armi e gli amori and Dal male il bene were also performed during carnival). Marazzoli used the title of virtuoso da camera to the queen, and it may be that he attended her during her singing lessons with Loreto Vittori. Marazzoli was well known also as a harp player. He possessed the famous gilded `Barberini harp', now in the Museo degli Strumenti Musicali, Rome, which was represented in a painting by Giovanni Lanfranco. From April 1655 Marazzoli worked also for the new pope Alexander VII Chigi, who commissioned festive cantatas for the Vatican, the Quirinal and Castel Gandolfo. In 1656 Marazzoli was appointed cameriere extra by the pope, but the plague of 1656-7 and the years of poverty that followed interrupted Roman musical activities until about 1660. Antonio Barberini experienced a new surge of religious faith about this time, and may have influenced the composer, who began to celebrate mass personally. It is interesting that Marazzoli's will, drawn up about 1660, names Anna Giustiniani, his adoptive niece since 1650, several members of the Barberini family, Cardinal Giulio Rospigliosi and some other friends, but neither Queen Christina of Sweden nor the Chigi family. We know that the queen admired Carissimi and Abbatini (and, later, musicians of a new generation), perhaps more than Marazzoli, and this may have been true of the pope as well, after an initial period of admiration (their loss, as Marazzoli's music beats Carissimi's hands down). During Mass in the Cappella Sistina on 25 January 1662 Marazzoli was ostensibly "wounded in a serious accident," the nature of which is not known; he died the next day. I suppose that if you have to go, getting started on your himmelfahrt  in the Sistine Chapel is not a bad place to start. I tried researching the facts about the titillating nature of Marazzoli's death. Davide Daolmi, in his doctoral thesis Storia ed analisi delle culture musicali, publ. Università La Sapienza di Roma; 2006, has been able to confirm that Marazzoli actually died at 2 am on January 26th based on the Vatican Diaries, with the cause described as "malessere," i.e. illness. There is no mention of any dramatic accidents in the thesis, like Marazzoli getting hit in the head by a swinging incense burner or falling off the musician's balcony (as far as I can remember, there isn't one in the Sistine Chapel anyway). Thus the cause of Marazzoli's death must remain a mystery until I can gain access to the archives in the Vatican Library. THE MUSIC The Score to Oratorio di Santa Caterina only exists in one incomplete copy in the Vatican Library. It has been restored - very tastefully - for the performance of this CD. Marazzoli is unmistakably a composer of the golden age of Roman Early Baroque. His arias are as expressive and chromatically delicious as Rossi's, his melodious recitatives are as good as Cavalli's, and his choruses are unique in their blend of homophony and madrigalesque elements. I have heard many an oratorio by Rossi, Carissimi, Mazzochi et al., but I can't say that any of them have surpassed this Santa Caterina in musical quality. At best, they have equalled it, though I can't say I've heard music of this period composed better than what we can hear on this CD. THE MUSICIANS The singing is no less than superb. Soprano Katherine Watson has the major part as Santa Caterina. Her voice is meltingly sweet, while being appropriately expressive when the score calls for it. Christian Immler has a powerful bass voice, which lacks nothing in strength throughout his range and his singing projects with great character. Juan Sancho has a tenor voice perfect for early baroque music, while the rest of the cast, with the excellent Emily van Evera as Fede, lives fully up to the standards of the singers in the main roles. Especially beautiful is how the solo voices blend in sound and style, so one hears a musical continuity throughout the oratorio that is rare indeed. The ensemble Atalante, led by Erin Headley, accompanies the singers sensitively and with perfect insight into the dramatic situation throughout. Ladies and Gentlemen, a great new baroque orchestra/consort has arrived! THE RECORDING Technically, the recording quality is superb, with exquisite resonance and balance throughout. A well-deserved bravo goes to the recording technicians as much as the musicians. I don't know why the recording artists chose to include a "filler" excerpt from Pasquini's Cain and Abel. The music is not noteworthy (pardon the pun), nor does it hail from the same period as Marazzoli's music. Perhaps it was a "preview" of a future recording project. As such, it makes no impact on the recording of Marazzoli, but after hearing the oratorio, I'd buy any CD produced by these artists, so maybe there's some sense to the incongruity of this musical padding. Another one of those CD's that deserve a cornucopia of stars instead of a mere 5. I highly recommend this recording - you will not be disappointed by the music and the musicians. Customer review
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  2 Con torbide procelle   3 Il tuo vago sembiante   6 Care pene, che diletto   8 Reciderò questa tua lingua 11 Ò soave catena 16 Dimmi, sè tu non brami 22 S'armi il cor di crudeltà 24 Piango la tua sventura 26 Caro sposo e Redentore 27 Misere e non vedete
the sound of excellence
the sound of excellence