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GRAMOPHONE (December / 2017)
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Reviewer: Alexandra Coghlan

Two sets of Lamentations and a penitential cantata bring plenty of darkness to this disc of sacred works from 18th-century Naples. But, as the disc’s title suggests, there’s also light, thanks to the grace and elegance of works by composers Gennaro Manna, Francesco Feo and Gaetano Manna – musicians from a single family but three very distinct musical worlds.  

The two Lamentation sequences for Maundy Thursday, both scored for solo soprano and strings, come from uncle Gennaro and nephew Gaetano Manna. The generational divide is clear, with the elder Manna favouring Pergolesi-like sobriety and simplicity of line (conjuring a wonderfully brooding vision of ‘those who dwell in darkness’ in the string-writing of his ‘In tenebrosis’), while the younger is a composer looking ahead to the more highly worked galant style, even to Mozart, in his lighter, brighter treatment of text.  

Soprano Silvia Frigato’s brilliant, slightly metallic soprano is a precision instrument, flourishing in the filigree writing of Gaetano’s music, bringing lovely ornaments to the ‘Matribus suis’, where her sparkling upper register is given a chance to shine, and cherishing the lovely legatos of the composer’s short settings of the Hebrew letters – Lamed, Nun, Samech – that punctuate the sequence. Less suited to the darker, lower writing of Gennaro, she really comes into her own in the more operatic writing of his uncle Francesco Feo’s cantata La sinderesi, with its extravagant leaps and runs and dynamic accompagnato recitatives.  

Talenti Vulcanici and conductor Emanuele Cardi offer crisp, undemonstrative accompaniment throughout, maintaining the spirit of the works’ original liturgical setting in a recording that offers just a taste of the richness of repertoire this fertile period in Naples’ musical history has to offer.

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