G A Ristori: Cantatas for Soprano
Ensemble Diderot, Johannes Pramsohler
Maria Savastano, soprano, Jon Olaberria, oboe
Audax Records ADX 13711. 68’12
Ensemble Diderot has built an enviable reputation for their instrumental recordings, based on the violin playing of their founder director Johannes Pramsohler. But on this occasion, they appear as a backing group to soprano Maria Savastano, who gets prominent billing. Sensibly, the programme is based on a single, and lesser-known Italian composer, Giovanni Alberto Ristori (1692-1753). He was probably born in Bologna but spent much of his life in Dresden in the court of the Electors of Saxony, surviving the musical cull after Augustus the Strong’s death in 1733, presumably on account of his having been music tutor to the new Elector when he was Crown Prince. The Elector’s wife, Maria Antonia, wrote the text of the three cantatas on this recording. The daughter of the Bavarian Elector, she was an accomplished singer and poet.
The texts and music are not of the highest quality in comparison with the more prominent composers and authors of the day, but the three cantatas are certainly not unattractive. Two are based on the Aeneid while the third is the pastoral Nice a Tirsi, like the opening Lavinia a Turno, featuring a prominent role for the oboe, here taking on the persona of Tirsi in the final duet.
The young Argentine soprano María Savastano has a nicely focused voice and projects the underlying emotions of the texts well, although she could have made rather more of the ornamentation possibilities of the da capo arias. My principal quibble is the persistent and rapid, albeit relatively shallow, vibrato. It takes a while to get used to, particularly if, like me, you prefer vibrato to be occasionally added as a specific ornament, rather than applied throughout. But she is in the early stages of her professional career and has time to hone her sense of period style.
The final piece is an oboe concerto, performed with an admirable attention to period performance style by Jon Olaberria. Ensemble Diderot and director Johannes Pramsohler excel throughout, playing with sensitivity.