Fabio Bonizzoni’s series, with La Risonanza, of Handel Italian cantate con stromenti for Glossa has now come to a conclusion with seven volumes recorded, but not before the group were awarded the 2010 Stanley Sadie Handel Recording Prize for the fifth instalment, Clori, Tirsi e Fileno (with sopranos Yetzabel Arias Fernández and Roberta Invernizzi and contralto Romina Basso in the three named roles). In commending the disc the jury of the Recording Prize made the following comments, “La Risonanza produces a delightful performance that presents all of the strengths and virtues we have come to associate with their recent explorations of Handel’s music. The orchestral playing is stylish, thoughtful and eloquent; the violin and lute obbligati are enchanting, and Bonizzoni’s well-paced direction from the harpsichord is exemplary. The three singers chosen for the parts of Clori, Tirsi and Fileno are superbly matched in taste and technical proficiency, but are also ideally different to enable clear and beguiling characterisation.” The jury – composed of eminent Handelians from Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United Kingdom aiming to indentify one distinctive new recording of Handel’s music – selected the victor from a plethora of Handel releases issued over the previous year, much as it did when it awarded the 2007 prize to the first release in the series, Le Cantate per il Cardinal Pamphili (also with Roberta Invernizzi).
With the release of the final volume in the Handel series (containing Apollo e Dafne, Agrippina condotta a morire and Cuopre tal volta il cielo and with the solo talents of Thomas E. Bauer, Furio Zanassi and – once more – Roberta Invernizzi) it was a good moment, then – in fact a turning point in the performing and recording activities of La Risonanza – to talk to Fabio Bonizzoni about the breadth of his interests in Baroque repertory.
Now that your Handel series has come to an end, what impressions do you retain from the experience with these Italian cantatas?
Having “lived” next to Handel’s music during the last four years has been a really exciting experience for us. Curiously, the fact that the music that we were performing over those four years was actually composed in a span of around four years gave us the feeling of “growing” together with Handel. In a certain way it has been like living in Rome, in the Palazzo Ruspoli, and being Handel’s musicians, playing every month a new composition of the Caro Sassone. I repeat, it has been a really exciting experience for us! Even if Handel was not exactly unknown when he came to Italy he left the peninsula as a truly acclaimed star. In the same way we, the musicians of La Risonanza, have loved his music every month, every year, more and more, and we are convinced that the quality of his Italian compositions is absolutely at the top level. Now that he is leaving... well, we feel we will miss him! In the same years we have had the chance of playing, for instance, Messiah, and we were shocked by the freshness of the inspiration of the Italian compositions – and it is not by chance that some of his best musical ideas in the later works come actually from this Italian repertoire.
What are you planning to move on to now?
We are starting a new concert and recording project, one which I would say is as exciting as the one just completed: the Italian Serenata. The Serenata is a very Italian genre, one which had enormous success throughout Europe during its time. We plan to devote six to eight CDs to the main composers of this genre starting, in 2010, with Alessandro Scarlatti, who was one of the principal Italian composers of the form. A lot of the repertoire we will record is currently not available elsewhere in the overall catalogue and I am expecting an enthusiastic answer from our fans!
As well as the music of Alessandro Scarlatti, you are also currently performing music by Claudio Monteverdi. What interests you with these two composers?
Scarlatti was one of the main sources of inspiration for Handel in Italy, and this creates a real continuity with what we have been doing in the recent past. Monteverdi is an absolute genius and one of my favourite composers. This year La Risonanza is extensively performing one of his masterpieces, the so-called Vespro della Beata Vergine. I love the fact that, apart from the beauty of the music, there is so much research to be done and so much of a need to put this into practice with his music. Taking new paths, having closer and different looks on the music, is always very exciting for me. However, for the moment, we are not planning any recordings of music by Monteverdi.
As a solo artist you have also recorded the Bach Die Kunst der Fuge, which is due for release. What draws you to this work, and about Bach’s keyboard writing in general?
Die Kunst der Fuge for me is a keyboard work, and therefore the harpsichord is the most appropriate instrument, I believe. The work presents several problems since no “authentic” final stage of it exists. I have decided to record a version quite close to the first version of this work – as preserved in an autograph manuscript – with a few additions involving the presence of a second harpsichord which is playing in two of the contrapunti. Without doubt this work is a masterpiece and furthermore it is a joy to play. Having said that, all Bach is a joy to perform because of the mixture of thinking and emotion involved, these characteristics both being at their highest level. When the keyboard is the medium, there is one further pleasure: the technical aspect of the compositions. We should not forget how much Bach was an incredible virtuoso and a great teacher: playing his keyboard (harpsichord and organ) music is a way to get to the deepest technical possibilities of these instruments.
Mark Wiggins © 2010 MusiContact / Glossa MusicPhotographs by Marco Borggreve