Domenico Gabrielli, unrelated to the more famous Gabrielis (spelled with one "l"), was one of a group of composers specializing in oratorio in the city of Bologna in the second half of the seventeenth century. Though the oratorio tradition was nurtured by the church of Santa Maria di Galliera in that city, some of the music was apparently semi-secular; the work recorded here, S. Sigismondo re di Borgogna (St. Sigismund, King of Burgundy), though its protagonist was eventually canonized, has a blood-and-guts story involving armed conflict, decapitation, and the burial of an entire family in a well. Sigismund was a historical figure, who died in 524, and his story might have been (or might still be) suited to operatic treatment. The Bolognese composers apparently knew the music of Carissimi, and their oratorios constitute a large body of work that may well merit further investigation from performers. The present work has moments of interest, although it seems an unlikely candidate for regular inclusion in the repertory. It is essentially for five soloists, with no chorus (the five join in a quasi-chorus in one number). The music is operatic in both theme and technique, with full-scale arias accompanied variously by continuo (a small organ and chitarrone are used here), continuo surrounded by short instrumental ritornellos, and, for the high points, the small orchestra, here played with one instrument per part. Most of the music is pretty schematic, with tremolos and arpeggios deployed for dramatic intensity and an active part for an instrument designated as a violine but that may well have been an early cello: Gabrielli was himself a noted cellist. The part of Sigismund is sung here by soprano Elena Biscuola, although a countertenor might have been more appropriate. The soloists, veterans of the Italian Baroque scene, deliver elegant performances, although one wishes for more vim in the instrumental performances of the Ensemble Les Nations. The oratorio's text is given in Italian only in the booklet, but the lengthy program attached to the original publication is mostly reproduced in the notes. Of interest mostly to specialists and library collections, this disc fills a gap in the performed record of the middle Italian Baroque.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|S. Sigismondo, re di Borgogna, oratorio for 5 voices & ensemble|