Alessandro Stradella’s private life has created a wave of speculation although it is clear that he was killed in Genoa in 1682. His untimely end deprived Italian music of an exceptional composer. On this CD, however, we enjoy the voice of the singer who is for many both the face and the voice of early music, Dame Emma Kirkby. She appears on eight duets, commencing with the lively Cara labbra che d’amore. More intense is Pazienza, finirá l’influenza with its sombre stringed introduction and continuo. Here Susanne Rydén and bass Sergio Foresti convey a message of hope, even though Foresti’s bass and the continuo still combine to produce a certain overshadowing darkness. Kirkby displays a real intensity with her interpretation of Ahi, che posar non puote, a duet with Foresti, where her skills are at their finest.
For Rydén, one of the most testing pieces must be Fulmini, quanto sa quel sembiante severo – the musical elements portraying the arrows of emotion are clearly recognizable. For Kirkby the test of how to demonstrate pictorial qualities in music comes in Ardo, sospiro e piango, where dissonance is used to evoke musical sighs. Dietro l’orme del desio is another highly demanding duet. Many of the classic Italian devices are employed to great effect; for example, in one passage, in addition to difficult notes, pauses underline the meaning and rhythm of words.
There is no doubt that listening to this recording confirms the loss to music when we think what Stradella might have gone on to compose and also Dame Emma Kirkby’s place in early music.