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  • The Italian Cantata in Vienna: Entertainment in the Age of Absolutism by Lawrence Bennett
  • Giulia Giovani
The Italian Cantata in Vienna: Entertainment in the Age of Absolutism. By Lawrence Bennett. (Publications of the Early Music Institute.) Blooming ton: Indiana University Press, 2013. [xvi, 368 p. ISBN 9780253010186 (hardcover), $60; ISBN 9780253010346 (e-book), $54.99.] Music examples, appendices, bibliography, index.

The Italian Cantata in Vienna: Entertainment in the Age of Absolutism is the culmination of many years of research by Lawrence Bennett, already partially known thanks to his Ph.D. dissertation (“The Italian Cantata in Vienna, c.1700–c.1711” [New York University, 1980]). The book examines the production of cantatas by composers in the service of the Hapsburg emperors Leopold I (1658–1705) and his son Joseph I (1705–1711). It starts with an introduction in which the author explains the importance of music at the Hapsburg court and sets out his intention to study the evolution of the Italian cantata in Vienna. In the first part of the book, devoted to Leopold I’s reign, Bennett dedicates a chapter to the political and cultural milieu of Vienna, to the importance that Leopold I gave to music, to the maestri di cappella active between 1658 and 1700 (with a list of composers), to the circumstances and places of performance (in particular with regard to the occasional cantatas), and to [End Page 537] possible performers and poets. The chapter dedicated to composers begins by considering the migration of Italians to Vienna, starting with Giuseppe Tricarico and continuing with Antonio Cesti and Pietro Andrea Ziani. A section is devoted to a description of some of the cantata sources preserved in Vienna, while more space is given to an analysis of the text and music of selected cantatas by Antonio Bertali, Johann Caspar Kerll, Antonio Maria Viviani, Filippo Vismarri, Carlo Cappellini, Giovanni Battista Pederzuoli, and Antonio and Carlo Draghi.

The second part of the book is devoted to the final years of Leopold I and the reign of Joseph I, characterized by the War of the Spanish Succession, which dominated political affairs at the time, as is made clear in the chapter dedicated to the political and cultural milieu. While Charles I was less active as a musician than his father, his brief reign was distinguished by cantatas produced by Carlo Agostino Badia, Giovanni and Antonio Maria Bononcini, Attilio Ariosti, and other composers active in Vienna. The description of the sources includes a printed volume and several manuscripts preserved in Vienna, Dresden, and Berlin (cataloged in appendix B, while a list of cantata incipits is in appendix A). A considerable amount of space is devoted to the structure of the cantatas, instrumentation (the majority were written for continuo only), dynamics, arias, recitatives, and the use of arioso. An entire chapter is devoted to aria forms, in particular that of the da capo aria, with discussion of examples from cantatas by Ariosti, Badia, and the Bononcini brothers; the texts of those arias are transcribed in appendix C. An approach to the repertoire as a whole is provided through a chapter dedicated to melody, harmony, and rhythm, where Bennett examines the vocal range required to perform this music, identifies recurring melodic features, considers the relationship between the continuo and the voice, and explores other compositional aspects such as modulations, keys, chord rhythms, etc. There is also a further section on the relationship between text and music in selected arias. This second part ends with a discussion of composers active between Joseph I’s death (April 1711) and the coronation of his brother as Charles VI (October 1711).

The book ends with three appendices: an index of cantata incipits with sources of provenance, organized alphabetically; a catalog of thirty-three printed and manuscript sources for cantatas composed in Vienna (held at Wien, Österreichische National-bibliothek, Musiksammlung; Sächsische Landesbibliothek—Staats– und Universitäts bibliothek Dresden, Musikabteilung; Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin—Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Musikabteilung); and a transcription of the texts of the arias analyzed in the second part of the book.

The book is of great use in providing a panorama of vocal chamber music during the age of Leopold I and Joseph I...


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