Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677)


Str 1

Sino alla morte

Cantata

Edited by Barbara Sachs

for soprano (c'-b''flat) and bc

Price: £ 6.90

Sino alla morte the first Cantata of Op. 7, is an exhilarating, through-composed piece, lasting approximately 14 minutes, and asserting that the fires of love cannot be extinguished. It begins in 3 with a typical Passacaglia formula in the continuo which introduces a series of sequences on the first words, vowing eternal love “until death”. This first Refrain, ingeniously extended, continues for 49 bars. The Grave contains a series of contrasting arioso passages over predominantly falling bass lines, in which the lover describes the features of his beloved which he knows time will alter.

Three 2-part Arias, all in triple time, follow, each concluding with the Refrain and the Passacaglia bass. The continuo lines of these arias imitate and complement the varied figures of the vocal line. The lover opens his heart to joy, undeterred even by jealousy and/or absence, adding vows to vows...”until death”.

Strozzi then reuses the music of the first part of the first Aria to set Può la fortuna. The lover feels so invulnerable that he breaks off his challenge to Fortune at the end of the first part, to begin in the style of an instrumental canzona in C, with a dactylic rhythm in the voice, continuing with octave leaps and energetic passages imitated in the continuo. A final 2-bar ostinato, also based on the descending scale, is then introduced by the bass, occurring 12 times, over which the voice has tumultuous figures, leaps, and virtuoso scales, asserting that not even such a series of ‘tsunamis’ could put out the sparks of love!

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Str 2

Lagrime mie

A Lament

Edited by Barbara Sachs

for soprano (c'-g'') and bc

Price: £ 6.00

The Lamento Lagrime mie, a plaint and a reflection on the subject of tears, begins and ends with a heart-wrenching harmonic e-minor scale falling a 9th from e” to d#’, hovering on notes belonging to the dominant harmony, over a tonic pedal in the continuo. Trills on two of these long notes, displaced in anticipation of a possible accommodation of the harmony, increase the resulting dissonance and mimic the desire to sob of the lover who asks why his tears are not pouring forth!

This 8 bar Refrain cadences on the dominant, to be followed by another plaintive question. It returns in the middle of the piece (bars 64-71) where it ends on the tonic, and is called for again at the end, in resigned acceptance of the “truth” that destiny thirsts only for his tears. Strozzi’s setting of the text alternates arioso sections in duple and triple time, all defying description as “recitatives” or as full-fledged arias. After the opening Refrain the lover invokes his tears again, with more defined rhythms and zigzagging leaps of considerable melodic difficulty.

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Str 3

L'Astratto

Cantata

Edited by Barbara Sachs

for soprano (a-a'') and bc

Price: £ 6.00

L'Astratto, the amusing fourth cantata in Arie Op. 8 3 depicts a man striving to express his suffering in poetry and song. Maybe he has pen in hand, or a library of arias to choose from, but either way he begins by stating his resolve to sing, in a recitative in D major (bars 1-26) which sets the word tormento to a poignant chromatic Passacaglia and gives the continuo a Ciaccona solo. He rejects his first attempt, in e minor (preceded by a Passacaglia Ritornello), overwhelmed by its sadness; he interrupts the second, a virtuoso outburst in G major (bars 41-55), speaking (Parlato) rather than singing; he then tries a "motto" aria in D major (bars 56-79) with affected tempo changes, but can’t invent a way out of the eternal fires of Hell. He tries again without success in A major (80-101). He aborts another Ciaccona, this time in C major (bars 102-9), as "even worse" after only half a line; likewise an attempt to develop a melodic sequence in 6/8 time (110-116). Dejected and distracted (astratto), he claims to have tried a "hundred” things. The D major Ciaccona bass returns (124), he pours out two moving stanzas in 6/4 about the mental imprisonment of love, to his utter surprise (148), and then concludes with a smoothly flowing arioso in 6/8 (154-171) that leaps three times to the high a'' he had previously reserved for the Furies and the Heaven of desire. Every sort of contrast is exploited in this 9 minute piece, including the comic portrayal of the lover’s mental suffering.

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