Rabbia, furor, dispetto

Jerónimo Francisco de Lima: Sinfonie ed Arie
Monika Mauch soprano, Concentus Peninsulae, Vasco Negreiro
Paraty 715134

A colourful first recording of some fine late 18th-century Portuguese operatic arias and overtures.

Jerinimo Francisco de Lima (1741-1822), following studies in Naples, worked for the Patriarchal Seminary in Lisbon and composed operas for the Royal court. Interestingly, he was also employed for a time as private musician to the eccentric English millionaire William Beckford, (of Fonthill Abbey fame.)

Concentus Peninsulae have put together an engaging programme. It opens with the striking overture to Teseo  (some agile bassoon playing from Jose Gomes), followed by three arias for Medea, one from each act of the same opera. Lima subtly portrays her decline from hope for Theseus’s love at the outset, via burning jealousy, to her ultimate self-destructive revenge at the opera’s denoument, in music of kaleidoscopic colour – her last aria, ‘Dalla speme, Dall’amore’ (track 9), with its fiendishly difficult horn obbligato (bravo, Paulo Guerreiro!) is a show stopper, literally and actually. Monika Mauch is more than a match for this stirring stuff and sings with fire and accuracy.

The disc is completed by three further Italianate sinfonias; that from Enea in Tracia  (tracks 10-12) has more fine contrapuntal woodwind writing (and some delicate harpsichord filigree from Fernando Miguel Jaloto), and ends with stirring brass fanfares. Lo Spirito di Contradizzione, with its rapid interplay of thematic ideas and sentimental Andantino Grazioso, is a fitting opening to the comedy. The final overture, that to La Vera Costanza, takes Lima’s ‘sonoplastic art’ to further levels; original instrumentation is taken here to include 18th-century stage effects, with stirring use of genuine wind machines and thunder, from the collection of ‘Antiqua Escena’ in Alcala de Henares. Vasco Negreiros has cleverly engineered a satisfying musical close for this overture, which originally ran straight into the first scene of the opera.

Ensemble Concentus Peninsulae play with suitably operatic brio – occasionally one might have wished for a couple more strings to balance the enthusiastic woodwind and brass, but Jeronimo Francisco’s vivid music comes across with full force.
Performance 4 Recorded sound 4 Booklet note 4 Overall presentation 4

Alastair Harper