At the Crossroads between Popular and Art Music
660:30 (10 CDs in a cardboard box)
Arcana A201

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This bumper box gleaned from the Arcana back-catalogue brings you Neapolitan music from a variety of contexts from the 15th to the late 18th century, although mainly from this later Baroque period. Kicking off with two splendidly dynamic and imaginative CDs of ‘street music’ from through the ages, the consequent programmes occasionally throw in a ‘trad-style’ piece, such as the superb anonymous three-part Stabat Mater on the disc otherwise devoted mainly to Pergolesi. Those who have been following the process of uncovering Naples as the cradle of the classical cello will enjoy the CDs of Neapolitan cello sonatas superbly played by Gaetano Nasillo as well as his CD of Neapolitan cello concertos. Nicola Fiorenza was a name new to me, but a CD of his concertos for violins and recorder have convinced me that he is worthy of more attention, while it is nice to be reacquainted with Alessandro Scarlatti’s striking church music in a magnificent CD featuring his Missa defunctorum, Salve Regina, Magnificat and Miserere. Even more intriguing is a CD of church music by Nicola Porpora, best known as the teacher of the celebrity castrato Farinelli – some surprisingly perky settings for solo voice and strings of the Notturni per i Defunti! This is matched by an equally perky setting of the Notturni for the Mattutino de’ Morti by Davide Perez, another name new to me, who employs the same sort of large-scale orchestrations featured in Neapolitan operas at the end of the 18th century. Finally, and possibly most intriguing of all, a CD of liturgical music by Gennaro and Gaetano Manna and Francesco Feo, all of whom deserve much more attention. I love these huge bumper boxes of treasures, and this one offers consistently high standards of performance and intriguing unexplored material in a wonderful range of styles – all the musical background you need to begin to understand the musical importance of Naples, and just the thing for a month of self-isolation!

D. James Ross

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