LA LINGUA PROFETICA
(dir. Jean-Marc Aymes)
Oratorio de Giacomo Antonio Perti (1661-1756)
“La Lingua Profetica del taumaturgo di Paola, San Francesco”
CD RELEASE > 20 OCTOBER 2019
Opus 2, La Lingua profetica del Taumaturgo di Paola, San Francesco is an unpublished oratorio by Giacomo Antonio Perti (1661-1756) rediscovered in 2014 by Francesco Lora, a Bolognese musicologist, a specialist of this composer. This work, commissioned by the patron of Perti, Ferdinand de Medici, depicts three personalities in the Court of France of the 15th century: Charles VIII, his wife Anne of Brittany and Louise of Savoy. A fourth character, the miracle worker Saint Francis of Paule announces to the two women the respective births of Charles-Orland and François 1st. The perpetuation of the royal lineage is thus assured! This recording is a world premiere and enriches our knowledge of this Italian composer. Jean-Marc Aymes, the director of Concerto Soave has surrounded himself with an ideal team – Maria Cristina Kiehr, Lucile Richardot, Valerio Contaldo and Stephan MacLeod – to offer us a recording worthy of this event.
The artistic direction of the label is assured by François Eckert (www.sonomaitre.com).
Graphics are by Mathieu Desailly who for twenty years has created the posters for the Festival (www.lejardingraphique.com).
Lanvellec Editions is distributed by Una Volta Music Distribution www.uvmdistribution.com
After two centuries of oblivion, it was only in recent years that the work and role of Giacomo Antonio Perti, one of Europe’s most erudite, inspired and influential composers between the 17th and the 18th century, was rediscovered. The longest lasting career in the history of music may be his. In fact, he began composing in 1678, at 17 years of age, and by the time he was only 24 years old, in Vienna he was already considered Italy’s most gifted composer. When he died in 1756, at the age of 95, he had been working ceaselessly for 78 years. Born in Bologna, the majority of his career is linked to this city’s institutions, especially as Musical Director of the San Petronio Basilica. But his fame went far beyond his home town; he is said to have been the only composer who never failed with an opera, and not just in Bologna, but also in Rome and in Venice. He was also known to be the rival and conqueror of Alessandro Scarlatti, obtaining the patronage of Ferdinando de Medici, the crown prince of Tuscany, who sponsored the opera of his Villa di Pratolino. Francesco Antonio Pistocchi, one of the greatest singers of this era, said that, to him, his friend Giacomo Antonio was the “Saint Augustine” of music. Perti was also one of the most important teachers of the history of music: the star pupil of Celano, who was himself the star pupil of Giacomo Carissimi, he was the teacher, among others, of Giuseppe Torelli and of Padre Martini. Through the latter, one could say that Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti and even Wagner are his artistic heirs. Perti was admired for the refinement of his melodies, his extremely skilful counterpoint, and the obviousness of his language: the most virtuosic ideas are indeed exhibited in his music with incredible clarity.
Why then this oblivion? One should certainly look for the cause in the Romantic and non-Italophilic musical historiography of the 19th century, which unfortunately still remains highly influential in our times. It condemned the composers whose speciality was vocal music (and thus inspired by the explicit word) in favour of those whose speciality was instrumental music (the “voice of the inexpressible”). Thus, for example, let us consider the case of Antonio Vivaldi. Since he devoted his greatest efforts to opera, he was rediscovered a century ago thanks to the Four Seasons concertos. Perhaps his most “encyclopaedic” score, however, is that of an oratorio, Juditha triumphans. But it was not until the end of the 20th century that the true value of his vocal music was reassessed. One must also consider another factor: In Perti’s era, a hierarchy was established between the authors of vocal music, that of God’s praises and the doctrine of affects, and the authors of instrumental music, that of dance, amusement and of introductions to the great vocal works. Needless to say, the former were the more highly esteemed. Perti, who had received the best education in the humanities, did not like to “dirty his hands” with concertos, sonatas and symphonies. He preferred to entrust this task to his friend and student Torelli, a true specialist in instrumental music. During the same period, while the great Arcangelo Corelli produced instrumental overtures, they were for the vocal works of his best Roman colleagues. This division appears to directly concern the oratorio in question.
La Lingua profetica del Taumaturgo di Paola (“The prophetic language of the miracle worker of Paola”): This is the title inscribed on the manuscript of an oratorio, bereft of any indication of author or year, that has been preserved in the musical archives of the San Petronio Basilica in Bologna. It is actually curious that such a score remained in obscurity until the end of the 20th century, since the archives’ catalogue itself, printed in 1939, revealed its unusual and captivating cast. Alongside Saint Francis of Paola (the miracle worker of the title), the other three characters are two crowned heads, Charles VIII of Valois, King of France, and his wife Anne of Montfort, Duchess of Brittany, who are joined by the future mother of a king (Francis I), Louise of Savoy, Duchess of Angoulême. It was therefore, in a single oratorio, an exceptional confluence (but entirely plausible if one refers to French history) of “royal blood”. With respect to musicological research, in order to determine the origin of an oratorio, the most obvious is to start by looking at the libretto that was printed on the eve of its performance. However, one does not often find the name of the author of the musical and poetic text there: this effacement signified as much their humility before God as their renown in human society. On the other hand, one can nearly always read the place, date, institution and the occasion for which the oratorio was composed. In the case of La lingua profetica, a libretto has been identified that coincides with the score. This goes back to 1732, and informs us of a performance given at the Castel San Pietro, a village approximately 20 kilometres from Bologna. Yet there are important elements, which we will touch on later, that invite us to look elsewhere for the origin of this singular piece.
While we have not yet seriously studied all of Perti’s scores, Juliane Riepe, in 1993, catalogued his twenty oratorios. There was therefore good reason to believe that an initial portion of the catalogue had been completed definitively. By around 2010, I had just published my research on the six grands-motets that Perti composed for Ferdinando de Medici, and I was about to start my research into the six operas written for that same prince of Tuscany. From time to time, I visited the musical archives of San Petronio, the majority of which come from Perti’s personal library, and I enjoyed leafing through other manuscripts, not necessarily linked to this author or his patron, nor to the relations between Bologna and Florence or the genres of grand-motet and opera. I focused on a collection of anonymous manuscripts whose exceptional richness stood out, and which often concealed the hand and mind of eminent authors. When examining the manuscript of La lingua profetica, I recognised first of all the writing of an anonymous copyist who worked for Perti. I then noted the exceptional quality of the music, its inspired melodies, its eclectic writing, and the skill in its technical and rhetorical resources. It was without a doubt one of the most fascinating oratorios preserved in Bologna, and what impressed me was the fact that these qualities were characteristic of Perti’s music. As regards the text, I observed the same style (lexical, structural, dramatic formulas) as that of Giacomo Antonio Bergamori, the poet with whom Perti usually collaborated. A great deal of information provided by the music has thus enabled me to attribute this oratorio to Perti with utmost certainty. I recognised, for example, the characteristic melodic fragments that are found in other scores by the author. I therefore held in my hands an oratorio by Perti of which all trace had been lost, not only its score, but the very memory of it. In fact, when Padre Martini asked his already very old teacher, the latter enumerated his oratorios, but forgot to mention La lingua profetica. Consequently, musicologists who were familiar with Martini’s account did not search for something that Perti himself had forgotten to mention.
As I have noted above, there are nevertheless several elements of the printed libretto that are troubling. Firstly, in 1732, the supposed author of the poetic text, Bergamori, had already been dead for fifteen years. Furthermore, in the same period, the style of Perti (already a septuagenarian) had evolved and was no longer that of the music of La lingua profetica. Moreover, apparently during those years Perti no longer composed oratorios: I conforti di Maria Vergine, his last work in this domain, probably dates back to 1723. As for the village of Castel San Pietro, it could not easily have obtained from the famed Perti such a new and fastidious oratorio as La lingua profetica. Furthermore, in this village, the veneration of Saint Francis of Paola was not a customary practice, even less so with sumptuous celebrations. Finally, just like Bologna, Castel San Pietro was part of the Papal States. So why perform an oratorio there that addresses the alliance between the king of France and the duchess of Brittany, their marriage and their progeny, with the blessing of Saint Francis, adviser and protector of the French monarchy?
One must look elsewhere for the origin of the piece. My hypothesis involves a person already mentioned here: Ferdinando de Medici, Perti’s patron. We know of the veneration that this prince devoted to Saint Francis of Paola. Every year, he honoured the saint’s feast with a great cantata or an oratorio performed in his apartment in the Palazzo Pitti. In March 1700, the famous castrato Francesco De Castris, his powerful artistic right hand, wrote of Florence to Perti, requesting compositions from him to play during the saint’s feast. Several days later, De Castris and another highly regarded castrato, Stefano Frilli, congratulated Perti on the great success of his music. One cannot identify these scores with certainty, but La lingua profetica could have been one of the first fruits of the long collaboration between Perti and the court of the prince of Tuscany. That would also explain the loss of the original manuscript; Perti, obliged to remain in Bologna, may have sent it to Florence after having quickly had a copy made. That is certainly what happened in the case of the six operas composed for Pratolino’s Medicean villa between 1700 and 1710.
If one puts the argument of the oratorio within the court of a Medici, everything becomes quite clear. In 1700, eleven years after their marriage, Ferdinando and his wife, Violante Beatrice of Bavaria, had not yet had children. An oratorio that recounts the birth and baptism of the firstborn of Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany, as well as the prophecy of a royal son for Louise of Savoy (apparently infertile) certainly boded well. More generally, one must recall the close connection between the French monarchy and that of Tuscany. The latter had given two queens to France, Catherine and Marie de Medici. Moreover, Ferdinand’s mother, Marguerite Louise of Orléans, was the German cousin of Louis XIV. Furthermore, during this period, the Sun King and France were the models of the court of Tuscany: the Grand Duke Cosimo III tried to imitate the splendour of his cousin, while the ladies of Florence loved to dress “à la française”. One can therefore imagine that La lingua profetica, a work where the refinement of the music glorifies its political strategy, partook of both the flavour of the day and the celebration of power.
The physiognomy of La lingua profetica abides by the model of oratorio in the Italian language as it was practised between the 17th and the 18th century. Its roughly 500 poetic verses are divided into two equal portions, between which there could have been a preacher’s sermon as well as a refreshment. Such a libretto implies primarily an alternation between recitatives (always on their own) and arias (always with da capo), without any choral intervention, for a total duration of one hour. The first part of La lingua profetica is preceded by a sinfonia (Italian overture) of which the author is probably not Perti. Obvious stylistic reasons point instead to his friend and student Torelli: it would thus be a new one to add to the latter’s catalogue. The four characters of the oratorio are assigned to four principal vocal registers. Anne of Brittany is a soprano, Louise of Savoy an alto, Charles VIII a tenor and Francis of Paola a bass. No apparent hierarchy between them, each sings four arias. It is, however, the alto who receives what are perhaps the most inspired arias. The soprano and alto each participate in a duo with the bass, while it is the bass, who portrays the miracle-working saint, who ultimately sings more than any other. At the end of each part, where one would rightly expect a coro instead, one finds the said duos. Arcangelo Spagna explains to us why, at the time, these ensembles were not found at the beginning of works. Indeed the audience, accustomed to these ensembles being found at the end of the part, would begin, when they heard them, to exit the hall noisily, thinking that a part was about to conclude. The second duo of La lingua profetica, the last piece of the oratorio, is the only one envisioned without da capo. Perti and his librettist were actually playing with their audience: when Anne of Brittany and Francis of Paola invite us to talk “a Dio”, they also invite the audience to disperse, wishing him “adieu”.
When a piece combines historical interest, musicological importance and above all musical beauty, one has little hesitation to establish a testament to it through a recording. That is what leaped out at me when Francesco Lora showed me, during a trip to Bologna, the score he had discovered, which he attributed to the great Giacomo Antonio Perti, a composer who held, certainly for the longest time in all the history of music, such an important office: sixty years as music director of the San Petronio Basilica!
The historical interest resides, of course, in the surprising subject. A relatively unknown page from the history of France, narrating the birth of the first heir to the throne, fruit of the marriage of King Charles VIII and the famous Anne of Brittany, and announcing the birth of the future Francis I to Louise of Savoy, through the mouth of the miracle-working Italian Saint Francis of Paola, sent by Pope Sixtus IV into the service of Louis XI. This history was two centuries old at the time of the piece’s composition, not very “dramatic”, and rather strange for an Italian oratorio, even though it was probably commissioned by the Medicis, who were closely linked to the French crown. One character certainly draws our attention: Anne of Brittany, venerated by all Bretons, with a remarkable destiny, protector of the arts, and yet who only extremely rarely appears in musical works. That was enough to excite the former director of the Trégor Festival of Ancient Music, Geneviève Le Louarn. It is to her that we owe the first public performance of the piece in our era and the present recording.
The musicological importance of the piece is manifold. First of all, it is a perfect testimony to the central role that oratorios occupied in the Italian musical production of the second half of the 17th century, especially in Bologna and Modena. Commissioned based on subjects drawn from sacred history, they were not subject to the “profitability” requirements of some operas, and instead demanded of the composers that they demonstrate the entire extent of their talent. This tremendous production is unfortunately still overlooked. The recording of La Lingua Profetica will certainly not fill this gap, but we are wagering that it will arouse the curiosity of young musicians eager for new repertoire, and delight the most demanding music lovers and musicians. The recording of this oratorio also has the advantage of shedding light on the figure of Perti, a leading figure in Italian music at the end of the Seicento and the first Settecento. Less extravagant, less innovative, perhaps, than his better-known contemporaries Alessandro Scarlatti or Arcangelo Corelli for example, he nevertheless remains the greatest representative of this first baroque “classicism” that established itself in the second half of the 17th century in Italy, and whose tradition, through Padre Martini, would persist until Mozart and Rossini. The balance of forms and instrumentations, the mastery and clarity of the counterpoint, the beauty of the melodic lines: Perti’s music offers all of this to the highest degree, with above all an elegance, a “politeness”, an urbanity of his own. One can say, in a sense, that Perti was to Bologna what Corelli was to Rome. For if one is well acquainted with the inventive and capricious music of the Bolognese composers, from Cazzati to Torelli, it is nevertheless the music of Perti, essentially vocal, as Francesco Lora quite correctly points out, which best exemplifies the quality of the musical production of the capital of Emilia-Romagna.
One finds this quality in La Lingua Profetica. It gives the piece its musical beauty. The composer’s elegance is evident throughout. The arias are relatively short, without the extravagant ornamentation, but with the right amount of vocal bravura to bring out the singers’ talent. The instrumental combinations are constantly varied: aria with simple continuo, with full orchestra, with orchestra but without continuo, with an obbligato instrument, with or without ritornello (this would be placed before or after the vocal part)… The characters, thus the tessiture – but also the emotions – alternate, and the duos that conclude each part are different, even though the main protagonist, Francis of Paola, sings in them both. Despite a not very “dramatic” plot, Perti manages, when characterising each role, to preserve certain unique effects in order to maintain our attention. The character of Louise of Savoy, written for an alto, is entrusted with magnificent slow arias, of a sombre beauty, suitable for representing the anguish of the young princess. The tenor-king displays an aristocratic valour, whereas Anne of Brittany is all tenderness and tranquil joy. As for Francis of Paola, generally benevolent and marked by Christian gentleness, he does not hesitate, in the piece’s only truly theatrical aria, to invoke divine lightning in order to banish the forces of evil from the royal cradle.
Even though others have undertaken recordings dedicated to Perti, we still hope to contribute to his rediscovery with panache. As a musician, one proof of the music’s quality is the joy one has performing it. And we must certainly admit that few recordings have gone so well. Here I would like to thank my fellow singers and instrumentalists for their enthusiasm and their performances. François Eckert for his kindness and his efficiency, Geneviève Le Louarn, Christian Langenfeld and the entire RIMAT team for their magnificent determination to complete this beautiful project.
This oratorio takes place in a double context: that of the court of the Medicis in Florence at the end of the 17thcentury and beginning of the 18th century, where the birth of a child is hoped for to perpetuate the dynasty; and that of the court of France in 1492. It is this latter context that we should devote our attention to. To do this, we must first introduce the characters who are at the centre of the action, and then bring out the principal elements of the plot and their immediate import.
- The characters
The oratorio features four characters. The first two are Anne of Brittany (1477-1514) and Charles VIII (1470-1498). The first, born in 1477, was the heiress to the duchy of Brittany. Her father Francis II, having no sons, had her recognised as his successor by the states of Brittany in 1486. The second, Charles VIII, was king of France from 1483. He, too, claimed to succeed Francis II, since his father, Louis VI, had reacquired the rights to the Penthièvre, a rival house of the Montforts, for the ducal crown in 1480, for 50 000 pounds.
This rivalry led to – beginning in 1487 – a war between the kingdom and the duchy of Brittany that turned in favour of the royal army. After the defeat of Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier on 28 July 1488 and the death of her father in the September of that same year, Anne found herself surrounded in Rennes in the autumn of 1491. In order to allow the peace to return, Charles VIII agreed to marry her and to renounce his promise of a union with Margaret of Austria. Their marriage was solemnised in Langeais on 6 December 1491. On this occasion, the couple mutually donated their rights to Brittany, and planned that, if they had a son, he would inherit the royal crown and the duchy, and be able to reunite the latter with the former. The birth of a male child was thus fervently hoped for in this year 1492 to favour the union of Brittany to the kingdom of France.
The third character is Louise of Savoy (1476-1531), daughter of Philip of Bresse, youngest son of the ducal house of Savoy, who was briefly duke between 1497 and 1498. Upon the death of her mother, Margaret of Bourbon, in 1483, her education was taken over by her cousin, Anne of Beaujeu. Betrothed at two years of age to Charles, in 1478, Count of Angoulême (1460-1496), second in line for the French throne, she married him on 16 February 1488. From their union, a daughter, Margaret, was born on 11 April 1492, which is not mentioned in the oratorio, no doubt because the couple desired primarily a son to safeguard the future of their house and the power to retain their rights to the royal throne.
The fourth character of the oratorio, Francis of Paola, is one of the great religious figures of the end of the Middle Ages. Born circa 1416 in Paola in Calabria, at 13 years of age he entered a Calabrian friary of the Franciscan order. Fascinated by the anchorites, he withdrew into solitude in order to follow the model of Christ and the Apostles more faithfully. Despite his modest education, he earned respect for his abstinences, his chastity, his humility, and occasionally he acted as a healer. He founded his first monastery in 1454 in Cosenza. His hermitic congregation was approved by the papacy in 1474 and adopted the name, out of modesty, of the Order of Minims, alluding to the Franciscans, who called themselves the Friars Minor.
Francis of Paola was convinced in 1483 by Pope Sixtus IV (1471-1484), and the king of Naples, Ferdinand I (or Ferrante, king between 1458 and 1494), whose court he had moved to in 1481, to visit Louis XI, who had heard of his miracle-working reputation. Arriving at the Château du Plessis on 24 April 1483, Louis XI recommended him to his children him shortly before his death, after which Charles VIII kept him by his side. In 1491, he offered him a monastery out of town in Amboise, to which he relocated in 1494.
With Charles VIII, Francis of Paola held the twofold office of surrogate father and of spiritual teacher, acting in favour of the reformation of the Church and intervening in the political domain, especially in the Breton affair. After the failure of these solutions to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, according to a tradition held by the Minims, it was due to his intercession that Charles VIII won the battle of Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier. He announced that the marriage of Anne and Charles VIII would take place, but “too late”, because the ravages of the countryside and the human fatalities would continue. He also foresaw the prolongation of the war until 1491 and its outcome. Francis of Paola therefore acted in favour of the integration of the duchy with the kingdom, acting simultaneously as negotiator, intercessor and prophet, of which there were many in the courts of Renaissance Italy. It is his capacity as a prophet that is at the heart of the oratorio’s plot.
II The plot
The oratorio is structured in two parts. In the first part, Francis of Paola announces the birth of two children, to Anne of Brittany and to Louise of Savoy respectively. In the second, he is charged with giving a name to the heir to the royal throne.
- Francis of Paola, prophet
In the first part, set at the start of 1492, Anne is already pregnant, and Francis of Paola is presented as the one who predicted the birth of a boy. This prophetic vocation, which asserted itself in France, is attested by testimonies consulted in Tours and the surroundings during his canonisation process. They highlight the importance of his work with women, to whom he is a preferred spiritual advisor, and specify that his intercession was solicited particularly for those who were infertile, those with difficult pregnancies, or by mothers who feared for the lives of their babies. Sixty miracles are attributed to him.
Owing to this reputation, in the oratorio Anne asks the hermit to intercede before God for Louise of Savoy, who is lamenting that she does not have a son. Not only does the holy man announce to her the birth of an heir, he also predicts that he will be “a hero of virtue, bastion of the faith, and worthy heir of the Gallic sceptre”, that is, the king of France. This promise has not yet come to pass in the second part of the oratorio, whose action unfolds during the baptism of the first child of Anne of Brittany, namely 13 October 1492. Louise of Savoy has to wait until 12 September 1494 to have a son, who is named Francis, as a tribute to Francis of Paola. As the latter predicted, he ascends to the throne of France in 1515 after the successive deaths of Charles VIII in 1498 and of Louis XII.
With Anne of Brittany and Louise of Savoy, we see the start of the construction of the mythology surrounding the fertility of the queens of France, thanks to the systematic intercession of Francis of Paola during their pregnancies. Other princesses supposedly had children thanks to him during his lifetime or shortly after his death. This was the case with Anne of Beaujeu, with Claude of France, daughter of Anne of Brittany and of Louis XII and wife of Francis I, whose eldest son, also notably named Francis, was born on 1 February 1517. Various people intervened actively to have him canonised after his death in 1507, and this became effective on 12 May 1519.
After his canonisation, St. Francis of Paola was invoked by all the queens in need of a child, such as Catherine de Medici (1519-1589) who, although she was married in 1533 to the future Henry II, only had her first child, named Francis, in 1544 (he died in 1560). Marie de Medici (1575-1642), wife of Henry IV, who had fewer fertility problems, also protected the Order of Minims. It was in her presence that the Angoulême Monastery was consecrated in 1619, a century after the canonisation of Francis of Paola. Anne of Austria (1601-1666), wife of Louis XIII, habitually prayed on Fridays with the Minims of the royal palace in Paris in order to obtain the end of her sterility, a devotion which is believed to explain the births of Louis (1638) and Philippe (1640).
Over the course of the modern era, thanks to the prestige of their founder and the powers attributed to him, the Minims succeeded the Celestines in the favour of the kings of France. Accordingly, their order experienced marked development, with the number of their monasteries reaching 13 in 1507, 38 in 1600 and then more than 150 by the end of the 17th century.
- Charles Orlando
As a sign of the trust Charles VIII placed in him, it was Francis of Paola who was given the honour of giving a name to the child who had just been born. This is partially corroborated by the testimony of a doctor and cartographer, Hieronymus Münzer, who came to the French court in 1494-1495. He reports that Charles VIII, when Anne was ready to give birth, sent a messenger to Francis asking him to pray for the queen’s delivery and the birth of a male heir. The hermit said to the messenger “Make haste and return to your king, and tell him that tomorrow at dawn, he will have a son, whose name shall be Roland”… The great lords of the kingdom, especially Peter of Bourbon and Louis of Orléans, who had been chosen as godfathers, could not agree to the child being thus named, and ensured that the double name Charles-Orlando was ultimately chosen.
The astonishing choice to attach the name Orlando to that of Charles (which had been preferred by the kings of France since the 14th century) can be explained by the fact that it evokes all the chivalrous qualities desired for the Dauphin, and which were attributed to the valiant Roland who, according to the Chanson d’Aspremont and Orlando inamorato by Matteo Maria Boiardo (1483), fought in his youth against the Saracens in Italy before dying heroically at Roncevaux. It is also revealing of the crusader ideal that motivated the king and the court then, and was an invitation to engage in the conquest of the kingdom of Naples, which Charles VIII could claim as heir to René of Anjou. Francis of Paola saw in him a prince capable of eliminating the Turkish threat in Calabria, where his order possessed numerous monasteries. The necessity, according to him, to give priority to a new crusade explains why he intervened to hasten the resolution of the Breton issue.
The choice of the name Charles-Orlando has more far-reaching import. While the Dauphin was associated with Medieval Roland, his father could be nothing but the image of Charlemagne himself. Charles VIII was thus seen as a second Charlemagne who, according to the prophecies of the time, would seize the Italian peninsula, take the title of King of the Romans, reform the Church and cross the sea to conquer Constantinople and Jerusalem, where he would die while laying down a third crown on the Mount of Olives. That would be followed by a period of a thousand years of perfect peace and joy, which would precede the end of time and the Final Judgement. There is therefore a real symbolic and messianic weight to the name Charles-Orland that cuts across the dynastic tradition of the Valois and the cultural world of the time. The Dauphin was also associated with the project to reconquer Naples and with the imperial dream of his father, which explains the involvement of the kingdom of France in the wars of Italy in 1494-95.
The oratorio reveals the persistence of the princely houses’ belief in Francis of Paola’s ability to intercede for the birth of an heir. It is logical that we find a trace of him in Tuscany at the end of the 17th century if we consider the relations maintained by the Medicis with the French monarchy from the 15th century onwards. This reference to the saint at the Medicis’ court is a way to reinforce the links to Louis XIV, who sought at the time to develop an Italian policy and to oppose the influence of the Austro-Spaniards on the peninsula.
While one can call into question the amorous sentiment demonstrated by Anne towards Charles VIII or the friendship that links her to Louise of Savoy (who dreaded until the queen’s death the birth of an heir who would distance her own son from the succession to the throne), the oratorio shows the importance of the birth of a male heir and of his survival for perpetuating the states or enlarging them. In both cases, the expressed hopes are partially frustrated. Charles-Orlando died in 1495 and it was only in 1532 that Brittany was definitively integrated into the kingdom of France. A more disastrous fate awaited the Medicis. Prince Ferdinando, who commissioned the oratorio, died childless in 1713. After the reigns of his father Cosimo III until 1723 and his youngest brother Gian Gastone I (1671-1737), the Medici dynasty died out and Tuscany passed into the control of Francis of Lorraine.
Dominique Le Page
Professor of Modern History
University of Burgundy-Franche-Comté (Dijon)
“Concerto Soave, now an essential reference in the reawakening of a baroque landscape; collectively tight, virtuosic, intimate.”
Roger Tellart, Classica Magazine
Born of the meeting between María Cristina Kiehr and Jean-Marc Aymes, Concerto Soave is a baroque music ensemble that cultivates an entirely unique poetic and acoustic spirit.
Well-known soloists from the four corners of Europe explore the Italian Seicento repertoire and far more recent works as well, including contemporary productions and cross-disciplinary collaborations (dance, theatre, declamation…)
Invited by the most influential festivals (Aix-en-Provence, Ambronay, Saintes, Utrecht, Innsbruck…), the ensemble has given more than five hundred concerts around the world, from London to Washington, from Jerusalem to Rome, from Vienna to Madrid. Prestigious recordings for Empreinte Digitale, Harmonia Mundi, Ambronay and Zig-Zag Territoires enshrine “the Argentine’s exceptional status as a baroque diva and the unique technical mastery of Concerto Soave”.
An ensemble with international prestige, Concerto Soave has made Marseilles its home port since 2007.
A talented instrumentalist, teacher, musical and multidisciplinary artistic director, Jean-Marc Aymes has been a major force in the French music world for 30 years.
Jean-Marc Aymes is a harpsichordist and artistic director of the Concerto Soave ensemble and the Mars en Baroque Festival (Marseille). He has been the harpsichord professor at the Lyon National Superior Conservatory of Music and Dance since 2009.
He studied at the conservatories of Toulouse, The Hague and Brussels, where he graduated with a harpsichord diploma, before winning the Bruges and Malmö Early Music music chamber competitions.
In 1989, he made the acquaintance of the soprano María Cristina Kiehr, with whom he founded Concerto Soave in 1992, a musical ensemble with a varying number of members of which Jean-Marc Aymes is currently artistic director. The ensemble adapts to the demands of different programs with great flexibility, from a simple duo to a baroque ensemble of approximately thirty musicians. Specialising in 17th century Italian repertoire, the ensemble has earned international acclaim.
Based in the heart of Marseilles, Concerto Soave performs around the world, invited by the largest halls and the most prestigious festivals.
Aymes has directed several productions of operas and oratorios (Monteverdi, Handel, Purcell…), some of them first performances (Cavalli, Perti, Colonna…). He also pursues a career as a solo harpsichordist. He was the first to have recorded Girolamo Frescobaldi’s complete keyboard works.
He has cultivated his interest in contemporary music via a collaboration with Roland Hayrabedian’s Musicatreize Ensemble and through works which several composers have dedicated to him.
He has a rich discography of more than sixty recordings.
Since 2007, he has served as artistic director of the Mars en Baroque Festival in Marseilles, a series of Early music concerts and conferences that are also open to cinema, visual arts and… cuisine!
Jean-Marc Aymes and Concerto Soave are planning several major projects in Marseilles in the coming years.
Jean-Marc Aymes in 6 Key Dates:
1992: founds Concerto Soave
1994: publication of Sances’ Motets and Cantatas, with Concerto Soave
2000: publication of Canta la Maddalena with María Cristina Kiehr and Concerto Soave, on Harmonia Mundi
2007: takes over direction of the Mars en Baroque Festival in Marseilles.
2010: finishes recording the entire works of Frescobaldi for keyboard
2016: world premiere of Cavalli’s Oristeo
“To hear María Cristina Kiehr sing pre-baroque Italian music is to plunge, through the magic of her timbre and the eloquence of her phrasing, into a universe where the splendour of the texts is enhanced by the expressive art of declamation.” 24 Heures
Trained at the Basel Schola Cantorum alongside René Jacobs, María Cristina Kiehr was soon invited by the greatest conductors (Philippe Herreweghe, Franz Bruggen, Jordi Savall, Gustav Leonhardt, Nikolaus Harnoncourt…) and most prestigious ensembles (Hesperion XXI, Concerto Köln, Ensemble 415, Il Seminario Musicale, Concerto Vocale, Elyma). Apart from her participation in opera productions (Cesti’s Orontea in Basel, Monteverdi’s Incoronazione di Poppea in Montpellier, Vivaldi’s Dorilla in Nice…), she has travelled the world (Europe, Japan, Australia, Central and South America…) and featured in more than a hundred recordings.
Her twofold passion for 17th century Italian polyphony and monody reached its full potential with Concerto Soave, which she co-founded. With the ensemble María Cristina Kiehr reveals her talents as a storyteller, endeavouring to render the slightest intentions of the monodic “new music” (la nuova musica). This music is evidence of a prosperous period when the greatest poets (Tasso, Marino, Petrarch…) were set to music by the greatest composers (Monteverdi, d’India, Mazzochi…) and when sacred music addressed the senses and the heart with the same rhetoric as secular music. The music allows us to discover not only a unique singer, but an accomplished artist.
Lucile Richardot has a master’s degree in Early Music from Notre-Dame de Paris and the Paris Regional Conservatory.
An extremely sought-after singer in repertoire spanning from the medieval to the contemporary period, she regularly sings with ensembles, including Solistes XXI (Rachid Safir), Correspondances (Sébastien Daucé), Pygmalion (Raphaël Pichon), the Notre-Dame Gregorian Ensemble (Sylvain Diedonné), Le Concert Etranger (Itay Jedlin) and as Les Arts Florissants (Paul Agnew). She also gives recitals with the organist and harpsichordist Jean-Luc Ho.
She has performed with Gérard Lesne, Peter van Heyghen and Les Muffatti, Le Poème Harmonique, Les Paladins, l’Ensemble Intercontemporain, La Tempête, Faenza, and since 2007 she has performed on Europe’s largest stages for baroque and contemporary operas.
In 2017 she was Lisea in Vivaldi’s Arsilda opera, with the Czech Collegium 1704 ensemble (Vaclav Luks) and then successively Penelope, La Messagiera, Arnalta, Fortuna and Venere in a tour of three Monteverdi operas with the Monteverdi Choir (Sir John Eliot Gardiner)
Valerio Contaldo was born in Italy and grew up in Valais, Switzerland. After completing guitar studies at the Sion Conservatoire, he studied voice with Gary Magby at the Lausanne Conservatoire, where he obtained a concert diploma. He was a finalist of the Leipzig Bach Competition in 2008, and took masterclasses with Christa Ludwig, Julius Drake and David Jones.
His eclectic oratorio repertoire includes major sacred works from Monteverdi to Frank Martin, via JS Bach (the Passions and Cantatas), Mozart (the Requiem, Davide Penitente, Mass in C), Haydn (The Creation, The Seasons ), and Rossini (Petite Messe Solennelle, Stabat Mater).
Contaldo has performed in concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall, Vienna’s Musikverein, and at leading festivals in Beaune, Ambronay, Salzburg Mozartwoche, Nantes (les Folles Journées), Bilbao, Warsaw and Tokyo. He has also made operatic appearances at the Paris Opera, the Théâtre des Champs Elysées, the Bienne/Soleure theaters, the Nice Opera, the Bordeaux Opera, the Teatro La Fenice in Venice, and the Edinburgh and Aix-en-Provence Festivals.
In recent seasons, he performed the title role of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo with Concerto Italiano under the direction of Rinaldo Alessandrini in Barcelona, Adelaide, Shanghai and Beijing. He also performed L’Orfeo with Cappella Mediterranea under Leonardo García Alarcón in Brussels, Rotterdam, and Paris (at the Festival Saint-Denis), and on tour in South America, including the Teatro Colón de Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
He has worked with many distinguished conductors, including Marc Minkowski, Michel Corboz, William Christie, Rinaldo Alessandrini, John Nelson, Leonardo García Alarcón, Philippe Herreweghe, Philippe Pierlot, and Stephan MacLeod.
Stephan MacLeod was born in Geneva. He studied violin, piano and voice, first in his home town, then in Cologne with Kurt Moll, and finally in Lausanne with Gary Magby.
After his first steps as a choir member and soloist with the Lausanne Vocal Ensemble and the Ensemble Cantatio in Geneva, his career as a concert performer began in earnest during his studies in Cologne, thanks to a fruitful collaboration with Reihnhard Goebel and Musica Antiqua Köln. Since then, he has sung regularly with Philippe Herreweghe, Jordi Savall, Gustav Leonhardt, Michel Corboz, Sigiswald Kuijken, Daniel Harding, Jos Van Immerseel and Anima Aeterna, Masaaki Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan, Philippe Pierlot and the Ricercar Consort, Konrad Junghänel and Cantus Cölln, Stephen Stubbs and Tragicomedia, Pierre Cao, Helmut Rilling, Patrick Cohen-Akenine and Les Folies Françoises, Christophe Coin, Frieder Bernius and Jesus Lopez-Cobos, as well as with Paul Van Nevel and the Huelgas Ensemble, of which he was the first bass for five years.
His career has already taken him to most of the major musical centres and festivals in Europe as well as in the United States, Canada, South America, China and on many occasions Japan as well.
He has also pursued his studies in orchestral conducting and is the conductor of the Gli Angeli Genève ensemble, whose concert season is organised around Bach’s cantatas.
He is professor of singing at the Haute Ecole de Musique of Lausanne (HeMU). More than 85 CDs, many of them critically acclaimed, document his work.