Luigi Rossi

Luigi Rossi (Torremaggiore [Apulia],1597/98 - Rome, 1653) was a prolific and influential composer, organist, lutenist and singer, eminent among Roman musicians in the first half of the 17th century, and  also highly esteemed in France for the expressive lyricism of his chamber cantatas, oratorios and two operas. Trained in Naples (under Giovanni de Macque), working at court before going to Rome, he knew the Florentine stile recitativo and Monteverdi’s works: the single known manuscript1 in Rossi’s hand contains Monteverdi’s Lamento di Arianna (Green Man Press, Ref. Mv 1) and Lamento d'Olimpia, the latter sometimes attributed to Rossi.

By 1620 and until the end of the 1630s Rossi served Marc'Antonio Borghese in Rome. He then entered the service of Cardinal Antonio Barberini, who sponsored his 7-hour opera, Il Palazzo Incantato (1642). He followed the Cardinal to Bologna in 1643, and accepted an invitation to Fontainebleau and Paris by Jules Mazarin during the Barberinis’ exile to France, where he produced his other long opera, Orfeo (1647), after the death of his wife Costanza de Ponte, a famous harpist. In 1651, when it was no longer possible to produce operas at the French court, he returned to Rome. Absences notwithstanding, he was organist at S Luigi dei Francesi from 1633 until his death.

Ros 1

Gelosia, ch'a poco a poco

a critical performing edition

Edited by Barbara Sachs

for soprano and continuo

Price: £ 6.90

Gelosia, ch’a poco a poco, on a text by Domenico Benigni, is one of two Rossi pieces published in 1646 in a volume with works by Domenico Mazzocchi, Giacomo Carissimi, Giovanni Marciani and the book’s compiler, Florido de Silvestris. 

Robert R. Holzer, in Grove 7, writes: ‘........complex, and powerful, are such works as Gelosia, ch'a poco a poco…One of Rossi's most popular… this canzonetta ably portrays a mind unhinged by jealousy. Striking harmonic shifts, virtuoso melismas and purposely distorted scansion are complemented by the syntactic and semantic parallelism between the three strophes of Benigni’s poem, each of two stanzas (a quatrain and a sextain).’

The protagonist, of either gender, vowing not to succumb to Jealousy, implores her to leave: an ever varying inner battle. This dramatic inner monologue is therefore a sort of “mad song” in which conflicting aspects of the speaker’s personality are evoked and addressed. The three strophes present only minor musical variants up to the refrain, which then has substantially different florid passages. The recurring injunction Lasciami (addressing Jealousy) inevitably recalls the heart-rending opening of Arianna’s lament, Lasciatemi. Here it resolves the protagonist’s defiant and exasperated inner conflict, additionally wrenching with its Monteverdian syncopation and its unexpected d flats in a dark B flat minor chord.

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