VANITAS VANITATUM: VANITY OF VANITIES, ALL IS VANITY. (Truer words were never spoken!)
GRAMOPHONE MAGAZINE: "Tragiocomedia have constucted an ingenious sequence of works by Roman composers in the vanitas theme, including two little-known works by Luigi Rossi and an exquisite variety by Marco Marazzoli."
The 17th century composers, writers and artists of Rome more than in any other part of Europe were confronted daily with the 'glory that was Rome' (so sings Tony Bennett), thus it is no surprise that they adopted the vanitas theme passionately and successfully. The message is "look towards God rather than the material things of this world which are fleeting."
However, it behooves me to say that if these compositions are truly conveying the aforementioned message, it would be difficult to ascertain that fact unless you read the text while you are listening. The music for the most part is sensual, seductive and lush which is really not conducive to pious thoughts. My first hearing did not include following the text; therefore I was quite surprised when I did so because the words spoke of remorse, travail, vexation, despair and death. Certainly we are not hearing in the music hair-shirted, breast-beating, self-flagelating mea culpas.
The five composers represented on this disc are: Giacomo Carissimi(1605-1674), Marco Marazzoli (c.1605-1662), Domenico Mazzocchi (1592-1665), Luigi Rossi (1597-1653) and Sefano Landi (1586-1639) and two anonymous works. All the music is similar in design as one would expect since it was written around the same time. I have long enjoyed Landi's music, especially the 1987 recording with Tragicomedia "La Morte D'Orfeo". I wore that one out and ordered another one immediately; simply great music with many excellent singers including M.Chance, J. Elwes and Harry Van der Kamp to name just a few.
The final selection (anonymous)is a stand-out reminiscent of the early music being written in Spain and/or Mexico twenty years hence. It positively jumps with joy though the words belie the music: 'life is a dream, which appears so welcome and joy is brief...you must die. Medicine is powerless(it no doubt was at that time)..you die singing, you die playing, the lyre or the pipe...' This is wonderfully performed by the duo of Susie Le Blanc, soprano and Steve Dugardin, countertenor and Tragicomedia.
The five main singers on this disc are: S.LeBlanc & B.Borden, sopranos who possess crystal clear voices, S.Dugardin who is a powerful lower range falsettist, J.Elwes who is a tuneful tenor with much depth and tonal intensity and the incomparable H.van der Kamp a basso who shines through this entire recording. He was very entertaining in Jacob's 1988 recording of Cavalli's 'Giasone'. (an aside: I think that our American basso Samuel Ramey and Van der Kamp are clones.)
Now go ahead: put on a toga, recline on a wide divan, summon your servants to bring food and drink. Be sure to overeat and overdrink and then REGURGITATE and start all over again.
This disc comes with a 34 page booklet with pertinent information in English, French and German. The libretto is in English and Italian.