Firenze 1616

Le Poème Harmonique, Vincent Dumestre
Alpha 321
Music by Belli, Giulio Caccini & Saracini

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he centerpiece of this 2007 recording, re-released as part of the Alpha retrospective series, is Domenico Belli’s opera Orfeo Dolente, a composer and a work entirely unknown to me even by reputation. Dumetre and his Alpha label specialize in ‘the alternative’, and in this CD they are exploring the Florentine music and composers who came to be overshadowed by Monteverdi. As so often our focus on prime composers and works proves to be counterproductive, is this case eclipsing music of considerable merit and beauty. Like Monteverdi’s account of the Orpheus story, Belli’s is a court opera, modest in the resources it requires and highly refined in style. Dumestre has assembled a galaxy of superb young singers and instrumentalists who fully mine the unexpected treasures in this unknown masterpiece. To a great extent though it is the instrumental accompaniment, dark and harmonically unexpected, which is the particular strength of Belli’s remarkable setting. The opera is preceded by two equally intriguing sequences of instrumental and vocal music on related themes featuring works by Saracini, Caccini and Malvezzi. I admire immensely the courage of performers who research the unfamiliar backwaters of a period to unearth neglected treasures – it is so much more difficult, time-consuming and challenging than simply producing yet another recording of already familiar material, but so much more informative and valuable.

D. James Ross

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