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This collection of early Neapolitan cantatas – mostly for solo voice and basso continuobrings together three discs first released separately in the 1990s. They focus on the chamber cantata as it evolved in seventeenth-century Naples, with its distinctive uses of Neapolitan dialect, folk materials and incipient buffo humour, notably comic ‘mad’ characters and sardonic parodies of lovelorn laments, as in Alessandro Scarlatti’s Ammore, brutto figlio de pottano, translated here as ‘Cupid, you horrible son-of-a-bitch!’ Francesco Provenzale is the dominant presence among the 20 selected composers, with nine pieces to everyone else’s one or two. Tenor Pino de Vittorio, sole vocalist on two discs, shares the third disc with five colleagues in pieces for two and three voices, and I can’t fault the performances. However, despite De Vittorio’s and Florio’s expert advocacy the frequently interminable, wordy recitatives and dated comedy make this repertoire very much an acquired taste.

Graham Lock Read the full review on Agora Classica


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Early Music Today, 2012 - ©Rhinegold Publishing