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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi; Leonardo Leo - Salve Regina (Fabio Biondi)


Composer: Giovanni Battista Pergolesi; Leonardo Leo
  • (01-04) Pergolesi - Salve Regina in A minor
  • (05-07) Pergolesi - Sonate in B flat major
  • (08-13) Pergolesi - Salve Regina in C minor
  • (14-16) Pergolesi - Sonate in G major
  • (17-21) Leo - Salve Regina in F major

Barbara Schlick, soprano
Europa Galante
Fabio Biondi, violin & conductor

Date: 1995
Label: Opus 111 (acquired by Naïve Records)



An interesting idea, to compare settings of the compline's Marian antiphon by two composers of much the same period, both connected with the royal court of Naples. (The presentation gives us a destabilizing jolt by describing each as an ''Antigona''.) Of Pergolesi's two for soprano—he also wrote another Salve Regina for alto—that in C minor (don't believe the disc case, which thinks it's in C major) is by far the more intense and, to me, much the superior, though the A minor has been more frequently recorded. The very opening of the C minor, with its yearning suspensions and dark-hued chromaticisms, immediately sets an emotional atmosphere which the blander A minor setting does not try to match; but both works are admirable examples of the baroque style. Surprisingly, the attractive Salve Regina by Leonardo Leo, who was almost a generation older than Pergolesi, is a lot more galant than baroque (though there is some reversion in the ''Eja ergo'' section), with elaborately florid vocal writing of an almost operatic nature. (Leo did, after all, write some 60 operas!)

Barbara Schlick brings to all three works a great deal of involvement, expressive and clean singing and, in the Leo, beautifully placed high coloratura; but resonances in the northern France abbey of St-Michel en Thierache 'catch' some notes and unexpectedly pluck them from their context, marring her overall line. This is particularly noticeable in the A minor Pergolesi, where both singer and instrumentalists seem to be too close to the microphone, with occasional edginesses. The strings, theorbo and (very discreet) positive organ are, however, excellent partners; and on their own, in a pleasingly warm acoustic, play with engaging verve and neatness two agreeable little trio sonatas once attributed to Pergolesi but now thought to be by one Domenico Gallo. The fact that the strings are not 'period' instruments, that they are played with much vibrato, and that in the finale of the B flat work the first violin light-heartedly throws in some sautille bowing should deter no one except stern purists.

-- Lionel Salter, Gramophone

More reviews:


Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (4 January 1710 – 16 March 1736) was an Italian composer, violinist and organist. Pergolesi was one of the most important early composers of opera buffa. He also wrote sacred music, including a Mass in F, three Salve Regina settings and the Stabat Mater (1736), which is his best-known sacred work.  The work remained popular, becoming the most frequently printed musical work of the 18th century, and being arranged by a number of other composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach. Pergolesi also wrote a number of secular instrumental works.


Leonardo Leo (5 August 1694 – 31 October 1744) was a Neapolitan Baroque composer. He was equally distinguished as a composer of both comic and serious opera, but is still better known as a composer of sacred music. Leo was the first of the Neapolitan school to obtain a complete mastery over modern harmonic counterpoint. His sacred music is masterly and dignified, logical rather than passionate, and free from the sentimentality which is present in the work of Francesco Durante and Giovanni Battista Pergolesi.


Fabio Biondi (born 15 March 1961 in Palermo, Italy) is an Italian violinist and conductor. Biondi is Italy's leading period instrument and Baroque violinist and is one of the leading European violinists. In 1989, he founded Europa Galante, Italy's first dedicated Baroque original instruments orchestra. Since then, he has served as its conductor and music director, as well as solo violinist. Biondi and Europa Galante have often appeared at major international music festivals, and the ensemble has functioned as the orchestra in several productions of Baroque opera.


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