2009 release from L'Arpeggiata, the French-based ensemble directed by Austrian-born harpist and lutenist Christina Pluhar. L'Arpeggiata has made a speciality of exploring and exploiting the close links between Baroque repertoire and the traditional music of the Latin world and its characteristic forms such as the tarantella, the folia or the canario. On Via Crucis, 'the way of the Cross', the focus is on the pervasive presence of religious feeling in Southern Europe. The Passion of Christ evokes the same fervour in composers such as Giovanni Felice Sances (1600-1679) or Tarquinio Merula (1594-1665) - both active in northern Italy – as it does in the streets of Naples or the villages of Corsica. The two main works in the collection are Sance's extraordinary Stabat Mater and Merula's Hor ch'e tempo di dormire, in which the Virgin Mary lulls her baby to sleep while weeping for his future suffering and both enthrall the listener with a basso ostinato and hypnotic swaying rhythms.
Alessandro Stradella’s colourful life and eventual murder have since furnished writers with material for novels and stageworks. But he was very highly regarded as a composer during his short life, and made important contributions to several musical forms with operas, instrumental sinfonie and cantatas. This programme features five seldom performed chamber cantatas and two of his sinfonie or sonatas. Soprano Christine Brandes has a light, pleasing voice, and an athletic technique which enables her to circumnavigate most of Stradella’s often demanding vocal writing. But she is stretched to her limits, perhaps even a shade beyond, in the virtuoso, fiendishly difficult ‘Ferma il corso e torna al lido’.