L’arpa Barberina: Music for harp and soprano in Early Baroque Rome

Margret Köll baroque harp, Roberta Invernizzi soprano
Accent ACC 24310
dell’Arpa, Frescobaldi, Kapsberger, Quagliati, Luigi Rossi & anon

[dropcap]M[/dropcap]argret Köll plays a modern copy of the Barberini harp, the prized possession of Cardinal Maffeo Barberini, who as Pope Urban VIII presided over the golden age of the Baroque in Rome. Barberini already possessed the harp, built around 1620, when in 1623 he took charge of the Catholic Church and over the ensuing twenty-one years of his pontificate he took time to expand his collection of musical instruments, which were doubtless employed in a flourishing musical establishment associated with his family. Köll presents us with flamboyant performances of toccatas, balletti, canzonas and fantasias for solo harp by Kapsberger, Paolo Quagliati and Frescobaldi, and is joined by the splendidly dramatic soprano Roberta Invernezzi for a range of songs by Luigi Rossi and the appropriately and magnificently named harpist/composer Orazio Michi Dell’Arpa. These performances are beautifully expressive, and the sounds of Baroque harp and voice seem in many ways to encapsulate the glittering world of the first quarter of the 17th century in Rome. To my ear, the Barberini harp has a slightly lighter and brighter tone than the modern orchestral instrumental, while – from the photo in the booklet – it seems to rely on flipping tuning blades to allow it to tackle the chromatic and modulating repertoire of the early Baroque. In Margret Köll’s hands, we are blissfully unaware of any technical challenges she might have faced in producing these sublime performances.

D. James Ross

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