Antonio Bononcini: Six Chamber Cantatas (1708)

Antonio Bononcini Six Chamber Cantatas (1708) RRMBE 212

Works for Soprano or Alto with Two Flutes, Bassoon, and Basso continuo from A-Wn, Mus.Hs.17587
Edited by Lawrence Bennett
Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era, 212
xv, 3, 162pp. ISBN 978-1-9872-0533-6. $190

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One of four manuscripts of cantatas by Antonio Maria Bononcini (1677–1726), Mus.Hs.17587 contains three works each for solo soprano and alto with two recorders and basso continuo. The fact that it is only acknowledged in a footnote that the upper woodwinds are NOT flutes makes me suspicious of everything else about the edition. For example, the fact that Mus.Hs.15931/7–9 contain parts, one of which is for bassoon, does not of itself give these sufficient authority to include a separate line throughout the edition as if it were an obbligato instrument. To me, a far more sensible solution would have been to add [senza Fag.] instructions above those passages where the wind instrument should drop out – by the editor’s own admission, these (and, indeed, the score) are the work of a professional copyist, not the composer, after all.

Each cantata has either three or four movements (the latter adding a recitative before the first aria). In one of the arias in each cantata, there is only one line for recorders; in cantata 2, this is marked as a Recorder 1 solo, while both instruments play in unison (as they do in other Viennese cantatas of the period, by Caldara, for example) in the others. There is no denying the quality of the music; Bononcini knew well how to write both for the voice and for instruments. No points for guessing the subject matter, or for imagining that they are open to some very dramatic performances! Singers will need to combine their acting skills with some real vocal agility, and the recorder players, in particular, will require nimble fingers!

Brian Clark

* Parts are available from the publishers for $68.