The renowned ensemble La Risonanza will make its BEMF debut in “Handel: from England to Italy,” featuring the soprano Roberto Invernizzi on Wednesday, June 12th at 8pm in Jordan Hall, in an offering comprising three Handel cantatas from his early Italian period, two trio sonatas, and a Passacaglia variata by Michele Mascitti. The ensemble’s founder and director, the harpsichordist Fabio Bonizoni, explains to BMInt readers:
Tamar Hestrin Grader: Your program for BEMF is Handel with Mascitti in the middle. Mascitti is not nearly as familiar to the audience here in Boston as Handel. Could you tell us about him?
Fabio Bonizzoni: Yes. Mascitti, of course, is a very unknown composer, but wrote very high quality music, and he has some things in common with Handel, which is why I think it would be interesting to listen to it next to the pieces of the famous German-Italian-British composer. What he has in common with him, well naturally, is the combining of different styles together. In particular, the Passacaglia we’re going to play is mixing up in a very interesting way – in a very successful way, I would say—the French idiom and the Italian idiom, which is something that Handel does with great success in his operas, and such. You have an overture in French style and then dances—and arias particularly—in the Italian style. And this piece of Mascitti, in the same piece alternating in a very subtle and successful way, the French language—the title, as well—Passacaglia—of course recalls the famous French dance, but at the same time we have sections, without really a break between one and the other one, which are definitely Italian style. And even for a few bars, even recalls the 17th-century language with a bit of basso di ciaccone, a small ciaccone bass, in the Italian style that period.
And what else did Mascitti write?
A series of concerti grossi, and some violin sonatas…the concerti grossi which actually are written and published to be played in different ways—which is something as well that is very interesting, and reminiscent of Corelli’s style, which he obviously knew. The trio sonatas might be performed in the way Muffat suggests, and he states very clearly in the preface of his concertos that they can be played with a concerto grosso setting, or in a chamber music setting, or can even be played with just one violin and continuo. So it’s very flexible instrumentation, actually. Basically it’s chamber music and orchestral music. Not a big output.
Will you be doing more Mascitti in other seasons?
We did more music of his a few times, some violin sontatas, but not concerto grossi. I mean, you cannot make a program out of Mascitti because no one would come, but when you put one piece within a program—last year we did a concert with Vivaldi, and there was I think a Handel trio sonata, and Mascitti. And at the end actually the people were saying “Oh, Handel was beautiful but this Mascitti is very nice!”
I notice that you’ve been doing quite a bit of Handel recently, and have a CD coming out of him soon. Why did you choose Handel and what attracts you about his music
Well this may seem a stupid answer, but people simply love his music. When I first came across his Italian music, it was full of the language of this time, which is the power of the music. He achieved complete masterpieces, I think, and there’s not a single work which is not interesting and not strong in a way. You can look at the chronology, and at the beginning you can say, okay, he’s learning something, he’s improving. And then you just get very much top quality compositions – cantatas and oratorios (just so beautiful!). And that’s the reason I chose to devote the last years mainly – not only, but mainly – to recording this music, because I found it so beautiful. And at the same time, I want to show that Handel is not only Messiah or Giulio Cesare or Rinaldo, but actually there is so much beauty in his youthful years as well. I think we have been very well received and the recordings as well.
We understand that La Risonanza has a CD coming out this fall of another of Handel’s youthful works—the Serenata Aci, Galatea, e Polifemo. How does this youthful Serenata compare with Handel’s mature opera based on the same story, which audiences of the Boston Early Music Festival have recently here in Boston?
Well, the second one is somewhat expanded. It’s basically the idea of Aci, Galatea e Polifemo, but expanded to be an opera and has a mixture of languages as well. The strength of Aci, Galatea e Polifemo is that it is so compact – one and a half hours. You get so much action, so much emotion, so much beauty, all, as I said, compact. We know that often his operas or oratorios were based on reworking of the same piece, because at some point he just had to have more music , somehow, to fill it up and give more arias to the famous castrato, to the famous prima donna, to get audiences. But the beauty of his Italian music is that he was completely free, because he was writing for very cultivated audiences that appreciated everything he was doing. Very refined, cultivated audiences – not only high class as in rich—he was writing for Popes, for Cardinals, for people who studied a lot – not a standard audience, but really lovers of Art. So he was free from any commercial pressure, and I think you can hear that in the music. The music is pure art, I would say. So Aci, Galatea e Polifemo is shorter, it’s more to the point. The emotions are clear, very well painted, and there’s never a weak moment, a moment where you say, ok, I’m getting bored. It’s just short and compact.
So what is next for La Risonanza?
Next is a good question. We’re now preparing a recording – still Handel, actually, but a chamber recording. It would be nice to devote some productions as well to chamber music. Particularly now we’re working on the duets, on the chamber duets for soprano, alto and continuo. It’s actually in Italian, but not written in Italy—written in London. That will be our first step into the, shall we say, British Handel. And actually—we talked about Mascitti before, and every time I rehearse and perform that piece, I think it would be nice to get people to know a bit more Mascitti. So if I can, I would like to do one Mascitti production.