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Alessandro Melani: L'Europa Sacred Works
Alessandro Melani, who was born in Pistoia in 1639 and died in Rome in 1703, is a representative of the transition between the styles of Cavalli and Alessandro Scarlatti. As music director of two churches in Rome, Melani produced a large body of sacred music, including 10 oratorios, numerous motets, six masses, three requiems, and more than 100 litanies and other sacred works. He also wrote 10 operatic works, including the first opera on the Don Juan legend. His music, both sacred and secular, is full of appealing melodies. Judging by the works on this disc, his works are well worth getting to know. Melani is not well represented in the current catalog; in fact, this is the only disc devoted entirely to his works.
L'Europa is described as an introduzione or serenata. It was probably written to be performed before a longer ballet or other work. Giove, under the influence of one of Amore's arrows and in the form of a swan, abducts Europa. At first frightened, she won't yield to Giove until one of Amore's arrows melts her resistance, and the serenata ends in a trio in praise of love. Veronika Winter, who sings Europa, is vocally accomplished; she sings with a complete lack of vibrato, which many (though I am not of their number) consider proper technique for this repertoire. Kai Wessel as Amore and Ekkehard Abele as Giove sing well. The work is very appealing. I would love to hear one of Melani's full-length operas.
The remaining works on this disc are sacred compositions. The Beatus vir is especially appealing, but all are worthwhile and enjoyable. The music is sung in chorus by five voices, accompanied by the small period-instrument group, Das Kleine Konzert, conducted by its founder, Hermann Max. All give committed performances of the highest quality.
I was not previously acquainted with the music of Alessandro Melani, and am thankful to cpo for this opportunity to hear some interesting works of this important transitional figure. Highly recommended. -- Fanfare Archive, Ron Salemi, May/June 2009