Che non fa, che non può
for soprano (d'-f'') and continuo
Legrenzi's collections of secular vocal music appeared in 1676 (Cantate e canzonette) and 1678 (Idee armoniche, and Echi di riverenza). The present cantata appears in the first of these, containing works written for the voice-ranges soprano or tenor, alto and bass.
The volume is dedicated to Giovanni Giuseppe Orsi. The dedication refers to the nobleman’s familiarity with Legrenzi’s previous works, and this underlines his connection with aristocratic patrons: one of these was Ippolito Bentivoglio, who contributed the libretto for at least one of his operas. As Count Orsi was himself a considerable poet, it is interesting to speculate that he may have made some contribution to the texts of these cantatas of Legrenzi, whose authorship has not been established.
This delightful work is both humorous and witty; the poem’s racy lines with internal rhymes – “A bocca che ride a un occhio ch’uccide” – are set with corresponding humour by the composer with syllabic settings in 12/8 or 6/8 time. Its alternating arioso and recitativo passages are constantly enlivened with little points of imitation between the continuo and the voice parts.