- Pasquini’s Cantatas
Italian nobles and gentlemen who loved modern music and lyric poetry enjoyed countless performances of chamber cantatas during the baroque era, but the cantatas have only disproportionately survived in manuscript copies that today are scattered from Stockholm to Palermo and from San Francisco to Cracow. Cantatas by Alessandro Scarlatti (over 600), Handel (ca. 100), and Vivaldi (ca. 40) form a regular part of nonspecialist singers’ repertoires. Singers can now consider the cantatas of Bernardo Pasquini (1637–1710), a versatile composer of the preceding generation. Born in Tuscany, he served in Rome from the 1660s as a highly connected organist, teacher, and composer of operas and oratorios. He was admitted to the Academy of the Arcadia in 1706, along with violinist Arcangelo Corelli and composer Alessandro Scarlatti. The first published biography of him appeared in 1720 in Giovanni Mario Crescimbeni’s three-volume Notizie istoriche degli Arcadi morti (Rome: De Rossi, 1720–21). A thematic catalog for Pasquini was listed as in preparation for the Wellesley Edition Cantata Index Series as late as 1997; it promised 100–150 items, but never materialized. The most recent research on him comes from a 2010 conference, proceedings published as Atti Pasquini Symposium: Convegno internazionale, Smarano, 27–30 maggio 2010, ed. by Armando Carideo for the series Quaderni Trentino cultura, 17 (Trent: Giunta della Provincia Autonoma di Trento, Assessorato alla Cultura, Rapporti Europei e Cooperazione, 2012). At that conference, Alexandra Nigito presented a catalog of Pasquini’s cantatas, laboriously compiled from scattered sources.
Now she has published sixty-one solo cantatas by Pasquini, most appearing in print for the first time, along with nine ensemble cantatas for two to five voices, and three solo Latin motets. Nigito has also given all of their texts in poetic form, as well as the texts of four cantatas whose music is lost. The latter includes the large-scale Colosso della costanza, offered in 1689 by the students of the Seminario Romano in praise of James II, after the Glorious Revolution had ousted him from the British throne. For the most part, however, Pasquini’s cantatas are undated. They likely stretch from before and after his quarter-century production of oratorios and operas, from 1671/72 to 1694. Some have the tender lyricism of the midcentury Italian cantata; others display the repetitive rhythmic impetus of the later baroque.
Of the seventy-three edited works in Nigito’s massive volume, only seven may be heard on current recordings, including a performance by Andreas Scholl of Navicella ove ten vai (Decca 470 630-2 , CD) and one by Nigito herself—she is an accomplished keyboard performer—of the solo motet Iam me ligastis (Tactus TC 631802 , CD). They are both in the edition as nos. 70 and 68, but classed as doubtful attributions. Nigito served as [End Page 173] artistic director and continuo player for the vividly effective “Passion” cantata with instruments Or che il ciel fra densi orrori (no. 56) released on Brilliant Classics (BRI 94225 , CD). Only a handful of Pasquini’s many oratorios are available on compact disc, and none of his dozen or more acknowledged operas (a study by Arnaldo Morelli, forthcoming, will show that the three-act pastoral, La forza d’amore, directed in 1987 by Fabio Maestri and released on compact disc by Bongiovanni [GB 2067-2, no date], is not the work by that title attributed to Pasquini). In contrast, recordings abound of his works for organ and harpsichord. Nigito’s edition will help make up for Pasquini’s absence in the singer’s standard repertory of arie antiche. He was overlooked by Alessandro Parisotti in the late nineteenth century (Arie antiche, 3...