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American Record Guide: (11/2016) 
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Reviewer: John W. Barker

Only recently did I review a premiere recording of one of Alessandro Stradella’s six Italian oratorios, San Giovanni Crisostomo (M/A 2016). That was, in fact, the second volume in what appears to be Arcana’s intention to record all of them with De Carlo and his ensemble. The present release is the third. The subject of this oratorio is Saint Edith of Wilton, an Anglo-Saxon princess who grew up in a cloister and was determined to remain there, pursuing charitable devotion, despite efforts to install her on the throne. (The oratorio’s awarding her the title of “Queen of England” is a misrepresentation of that failed hope.) As with Crisostomo, such subject matter  is quite alien to Italian liturgical practice. In this case efforts are made to connect the composition with at least two possible political queenly personalities of the day, as a topical commentary.


There is no real action in the libretto by the Roman aristocratic poet Lelio Orsini. Instead, this is an example of what we might call the “debate-oratorio”, where a character has discussions with, or is argued over, by allegorical personifica-tions. Editta strenuously and unyieldingly defends her religious vocation against the arguments of Nobilita (Nobility, soprano), Grandezza (Grandeur, contralto),

Bellezza (Beauty, tenor), and Senso (Sense, bass), with backing only by Umilita (Humility, soprano). The score is the predictable procession of recitatives with arias (17 of them, including ariosos), duets (4) and trios (4), invariably brief. Editta herself is the clear protagonist, with 11 of the arias and 1 duet assigned to her, as she answers the blandishments one by one.

Though there is not a great deal of musical development, by later standards, many of the arias are melodically attractive. Though there is a plenitude of sopranos, and they tend to sound similar, the cast consists of very effective

soloists. Cangemi is the best known of them, and her strong, fervid protestations are brought off beautifully. The instrumental functions are taken over by seven players (two gambas, cello, archlute, theorbo, harp, harpsichord).

Full Italian text is printed, with translations. Not a great masterpiece, but an interesting transitional example of the genre.

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