This disc presents a nicely performed example of a late eighteenth century genre poorly represented in the output of Haydn and Mozart. Haydn because he worked for a wealthy but out-of-the-way employer, and Mozart because he never really made it into the high-ticket circles. Atene Edificata, called a cantata, is a public vocal work, with big, almost tonally static choruses and fancy solo and duet vocal numbers. The purpose of this kind of work was to glorify the commissioning patron. In this case the patron was Catherine the Great of Russia, who imported Cimarosa along with various other Italian musicians and artists to her court at St. Petersburg. The work, composed in 1788, draws on an obscure episode in Greek mythology concerning the founding of the city of Athens, but the Italian-language text (plot would be too strong a word) was really an allegory for Catherine's supposedly enlightened rule. Catherine, in the event, didn't think much of the cantata, but it met with the approval of her Rovian chief of staff and sometime lover, Grigori Potemkin. The choruses, and especially the separate chorus-and-soloists Coro dei Guerrieri that conclude the disc, are the most fun, but the soloists here have festive styles appropriate to the music: sample the flowery but well-controlled vibrato of soprano Lindita Hisku in Aglauro's first recitative and aria, track 3. An objection might be raised to the use of soprano Novella Bassano for the male part of Cecrope, written for a sopranista or male soprano. Using a male vocalist would have brought a heft and a dimension of contrast among the arias that seems implicit in the music. The disc is nevertheless recommended for eighteenth century specialists, especially inasmuch as the detailed and extensively footnoted booklet (in Italian and English throughout, including for the work texts) covers Cimarosa's entire career and provides rich background for his Russian sojourn.
Domenico Cimarosa: Atene Edificata; Coro del Guerrieri Review
by James Manheim
|Atene Edificata, cantata|