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Ionarts in Siena: Cappella della Pietà de' Turchini

Antonio Florio, conductor
On Tuesday night, it was back to a half-filled Teatro dei Rozzi in Siena, for a performance by the Cappella della Pietà de' Turchini. The group, led by cellist and musicologist Antonio Florio, specializes in Neapolitan music of the 17th and 18th centuries. To create this divertimento semi-scenico, called La follia e il gioco, Florio combined four cantatas or intermezzi, two on the theme of madness and two on the theme of games, all semi-staged by Giuseppe De Vittorio. While the results were all entertaining and comic, some of the pieces were more pleasing musically than others.

Of the two cantatas featuring featuring the character of La Pazzia (Madness), Barbara Strozzi's La pazzia venuta da Venezia ("L'astratto") was the stronger work, accompanied simply by continuo. Strozzi, one of the relatively few great female composers, was the superior melodic and dramatic craftsman. After a slightly rough start with some minor intonation problems, soprano Maria Grazia Schiavo gave a fine performance combining sections of agitated runs and others of arching legato lines. Before that "Venetian" Madness, Pietro Antonio Giramo, a composer from a generation before Strozzi, presented the Neapolitan Madness, in La pazzia venuta da Napoli. Soprano Maria Ercolano gave an edgy, grainy-voiced rendition that was strong in affective contrasts, with lead violinist Alessandro Ciccolini's capable solo part.

64th Settimana Musicale Senese:

Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (July 14)

Concerto Italiano, Monteverdi's Orfeo (July 11)

Cappella della Pietà de' Turchini (July 10)

Fabio Vacchi, La Madre del Mostro (July 8)
The first part of the Game section was devoted to the game of dress-up (Il gioco dei travestimenti). Giuseppe Petrini's intermezzo buffo Graziello e Nella featured Ercolano in the male role and character tenor Giuseppe De Vittorio in the female, complete with snaps of a sassy red fan and pronounced Neapolitan dialect. After intermission, the most extended work was the climax of the evening, Antonio Caldara's Il gioco del quadriglio. This is a rather silly cantata about four friends playing a card game (featuring all three singers heard previously, including De Vittorio camping it up again as Ottavia), with one aria for each part spread out through intervening recitatives. We heard the largest and most beautiful voice, soprano Valentina Varriale, only in this work, and her rendition of Livia's delightful aria "Che giuoco felice" (with a sweet traverso part played by Tommaso Rossi) made me want more.

Florio conducted only beginning with the Petrini piece, for the full body of strings (eight players). The complete ensemble, including recorder, played for the Caldara, with fine results. Particularly good was "Ah, se toccasse a me" in the Caldara, with its two competing theorbo parts. (Both theorbists also play for Concerto Italiano, and that group's conductor, Rinaldo Alessandrini, was seated a couple rows in front of me.) Florio brilliantly interpolated movements from a couple of Caldara's sonatas for strings (op. 2), which provided an attractive relief from the singing. A spicy Fandango, complete with castanets, served as encore to a pleasing concert.

Just as we came out of the Teatro dei Rozzi, a contingent from the Oca neighborhood of Siena paraded down the street with their Palio (from the July race). They proceeded to the Piazza del Campo and, of course, right to the street that leads into the Torre neighborhood, their great enemy, to offer a midnight serenade of insults. Later that night, while working on reviews, I watched a filmed conversation between Christian Schlingensief and Christian Thielemann, in German, with French subtitles, in Italy. This is the life.

The 64th Settimana Musicale Senese concludes tonight in Siena. Associated concerts continue throughout August, in Siena and nearby towns, in the 76th Estate Musicale Chigiana, including performances by violinist Giuliano Carmignola (July 21), harpsichordist Christophe Rousset (August 1), cellist Antonio Meneses (August 3), and pianist Maurizio Pollini (August 12).

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