The Gasparini Album
Roberta Invernizzi, soprano
Carlo Ipata, conductor and traverso
Francesco Gasparini, a Forgotten Composer
Even though the name of Francesco Gasparini is virtually unknown now, at his time this Baroque composer and teacher was highly esteemed by his contemporaries. Born in Camaiore, a small town near Lucca in 1661, Gasparini studied in Rome with Corelli and Pasquini and was later admitted to the Accademia Filarmonica in Bologna. He lived between Rome and Venice. In the city on the lagoon, he was a choir master at the Ospedale della Pietà (where also Antonio Vivaldi was employed) from 1701 to 1713. Between 1716 and 1718, he was maestro di cappella to Prince Ruspoli, succeeding Caldara. In 1718, Gasparini entered the Arcadian Academy, with the name Ericreo. In February 1725, he became maestro di cappella at S Giovanni in Laterano. Two years later, in 1727, he died in Rome.
During his career, Gasparini wrote around sixty operas and several oratorios and cantatas, together with many orchestral works. Burney described his cantatas as «graceful, elegant, natural, and often pathetic». While Padre Martini praised his recitatives, Haas considered Gasparini as a model for no less a composer than Handel. As a teacher, Gasparini was equally admired and he had among his pupils Quantz, Platti and Benedetto Marcello. Gasparini wrote also a practical manual of figured bass, L’armonico pratico al cimbalo, which was used throughout the 18th century.
The Gasparini Album
Soprano Roberta Invernizzi specialized in early and Baroque music. It is not unusual to find rarities in her discography, which includes Handel, Vivaldi and Porpora albums. In this regard, a Gasparini Album was only a matter of time and finally it has been released. It collects opera arias, one of his cantate da camera and few instrumental works, one from an opera (the Sinfonia from Engelberta) and a Concerto per flauto.
Overall, Invernizzi’s performance is good, though not exceptional. She does not appear to have a big voice and her timbre is not one of the most precious. Her high notes, in particular, are quite shrill. However, her instinctive taste takes over and remedies in part to the flaws. Her coloratura is quite impressive, even though there are passages where it is less precise and others where the soprano seems breathless (as in Svena uccidi from Il Tamerlano). Moreover, her phrasing is clear and precise. Her performance of Gasparini’s arias can be considered as the best that a not particularly beautiful voice can give, but nothing more than that.
Carlo Ipata and Auser Musici
In a certain, paradoxical sense, it is the orchestral part the one which is really enjoyable in The Gasparini Album. The ensemble Auser Musici, led by Carlo Ipata, plays very well, with subtle nuances and shimmering colours. They have two moments when they are the only protagonists, the Sinfonia from Engelberta and the Concerto per flauto in A major.
The Sinfonia is the usual, tripartite Baroque symphony and the Auser Musici represent very well the sparkling colours of the first Allegro, the thoughtful feeling of the Adagio and the jocose character of the second Allegro. It seems that this “jocosity” is one of the traits that Ipata and his ensemble have tried to bring out with great attention, because it characterizes also the Concerto in A major.
The Concerto is remarkable for the amusing character of the Allegro, the contemplative Siciliana with its nostalgic flute and the final Allegro, where a joyful feeling returns once again and is highlighted thanks to the brilliant orchestral sound.
The Gasparini Album is valuable especially because it allows to discover an unusual repertoire and some beautiful music. The arias and orchestral pieces are extremely enjoyable and, despite the flaws of Invernizzi’s voice and thanks to Ipata’s accurate conduction, they are placed in a favourable light – enough to hope to listen to other music composed by Francesco Gasparini.