BBC Music Magazine - - Choral & Song -

Mad­dalena à piedi di Cristo

Le Ban­quet Céleste/damien Guil­lon Al­pha Clas­sics AL­PHA 426

125:26 mins (2 discs)

Cal­dara’s or­a­to­rio Mad­dalena ai piedi di Cristo retells the Bi­b­li­cal ac­count of Mary Mag­da­lene’s an­guish at the foot of the Cross

– a work of emo­tional ex­tremes,

poignant and rap­tur­ous mu­sic. When the im­pres­sion­able young Han­del met Cal­dara in Rome, he may well have been in­spired by his liq­uid melodies, sub­tle or­ches­tral colours and height­ened sense of drama – skills which marked the Ital­ian out as the most fa­mous or­a­to­rio com­poser of his day. René Jacobs’s mem­o­rable 1996 record­ing of this work is a hard act to fol­low, but the score leaves plenty of scope for in­ter­pre­ta­tion, and Jacobs by no means has the last word.

Li­bret­tist Lodovico Forni adds to the bi­b­li­cal story the char­ac­ters of Ce­les­tial and Earthly Love, who vie for the Mag­da­lene’s soul – a lit­er­ary in­ter­ven­tion that al­lows Cal­dara to paint her vac­il­lat­ing pas­sions with mu­sic by turns sen­su­ous and sub­lime. From the ag­i­tated open­ing to the ra­di­ant end­ing, this crack pe­riod ensem­ble of­fers keenly re­spon­sive play­ing: here alert and fu­ri­ous, there limpid and va­porous.

The six soloists are sen­si­tively cast: Em­manuelle de Ne­gri is aptly in­tense as the ‘re­pen­tant sin­ner’ – her so­prano ar­dent and tremu­lous; the paler, straighter-toned so­prano of Maïlys de Vill­outreys (Martha) makes the per­fect foil. Benedetta Maz­zu­cato’s con­tralto is plummy and full-bod­ied as Earthly Love, while the more an­drog­y­nous tones of coun­tertenor Damien Guil­lon (also the ensem­ble’s di­rec­tor) sug­gest more an­gelic realms. Reinoud van Meche­len’s vel­vety tenor as­suages as Christ, and Ric­cardo No­varo’s bari­tone is suit­ably res­o­lute for the Pharisee. The record­ing is in­ti­mate and de­tailed. Kate Bolton-por­ci­atti



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