Francesco Barsanti: Secular Vocal Music

Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era, 197
Edited by Michael Talbot
xxv, 2 + 71pp. $145
ISBN 978-0-89579-867-1

Perhaps best known for his recorder sonatas and the recently recorded concerti grossi  he published in Edinburgh, Francesco Barsanti’s secular vocal music fills a fairly modest volume. Consisting of five Italian cantatas and six French airs for solo voice and continuo, a four-voice Italian madrigal and two catches in English for four equal voices, it provides another viewpoint from which to consider one of Handel’s contemporaries. With typical thoroughness, Talbot gives as lively a portrait of the composer as is possible, and – as well as comprehensive critical notes – idiomatic translations of the non-English texts are provided. All in all, this is an excellent volume which will be partnered in due course by Jasmin M. Cameron’s versions of the composer’s surviving sacred music. The recitatives are dramatic and the arias tuneful; the three longer French airs might overstay their welcome unless the singer has some impressive ornaments up his or her sleeve; the madrigal might make a welcome and novel addition to an amateur vocal group’s repertoire? Either way, Barsanti’s music deserves to be more widely known, and one hopes that its availability (even if the cost might mean only libraries can afford to buy it!) will encourage performers to explore it.

Brian Clark