Antonio Florio’s deep understanding of the Baroque musical terrain of Naples now takes him to the dawn of the 18th century when the fervour and visceral excitement held by Neapolitans for their chief patron saint San Gennaro was at its height, in an era when the city had been ravaged by plague and was living in constant fear of eruptions from nearby Mount Vesuvius. Great devotion was directed at San Gennaro, in the belief that he would ward off further evils: a richly-adorned chapel in Naples’s cathedral was dedicated to him and provided with its own musical ensemble, and a stream of composers (often pupils of the great Francesco Provenzale) such as Cristofaro Caresana, Nicola Fago and Gaetano Veneziano worked there. Central to the programme of I Turchini, prepared by Florio and Dinko Fabris, are performances of Fago’s four-part Stabat Mater and Caresana’s canzona Sirene festose. There is a rare outing also for a motet, Antra valles Divo plaudant, written by the young Domenico Scarlatti – three of whose string sinfonias are also included here – when he was one of the organists in the Real Cappella; musicians in Naples regularly moved in and out of different ensembles, then as now. A booklet essay by Fabris himself splendidly underpins the popular traditions and musical and religious colour surrounding San Gennaro in a Naples still alive today; moreover, an evocation brought to potent life by the performances of Florio, with his singers and instrumentalists of I Turchini.
Claudio Monteverdi's Seventh Book of Madrigals, written in 1619, was really the first that was fully part of the new operatic age – and really the first to consist of pieces that were not really madrigals at all. For all of the soloistic and operatic expressive devices, for all the block chords that had appeared in the previous few books, this was the first set in which Monteverdi dispensed with the traditional five-voice texture of the madrigal.