Like the Bach disc mentioned yesterday, this disc of Christmas cantatas from Assisi would surely pass muster as a gift for a more discriminating palate; unlike the Bach, most of the pieces featured here were actually composed for the celebration of Christmas. The focus is four obscure works for soprano and orchestra, plus one for soprano and alto, discovered in the archive of the Basilica di San Francesco in Assisi (the courtyard of which is featured on the cover), here given their world premiere recordings. Most of the composers are hardly known quantities, including Francesco Maria Benedetti (1683-1746), Giuseppe Maria Pò del Finale (fl. 1700), Ferdinando Antonio Lazzari (1678-1754), who were all Franciscan friars in Assisi's Sacro Convento. The principal vocal attraction is Ruth Ziesak, whose flinty but agile soprano has many qualities in common with another German singer, Simone Kermes (who has also recorded with L'Arte del Mondo, the fine German early music ensemble featured here). Throw in an unknown motet for soprano by Porpora and two instrumental works (an unknown sonata by Alessandro Melani and the much-loved Christmas Concerto by Corelli), and you have a very intelligent gift for that music lover in your life.
Assisi Christmas Cantatas, R. Ziesak, R. Friedrich, I. Danz, L'Arte del Mondo, W. Ehrhardt
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