Reliquie di Roma II: Caro Sposo

In Lamentarium, the first recording of our Reliquie di Roma series, we laid the four cornerstones for a 17th-century ‘Roman’ city of ladies with the tragic laments of Helen of Troy, Queen Artemisia, Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary. In this second recording we raise an edifice to St Catherine. Our ‘martyr drama’ in the form of an oratorio continues from here in rich and elaborate baroque style, with prolonged and agonising suffering and torture ultimately leading to Catherine’s sublime and victorious death. Lelio Orsini, one of Rome’s most eminent librettists, vividly conveyed the narrative in elegant poetry, which Marco Marazzoli dramatically and extravagantly enhanced in the full-scale Oratorio di Santa Caterina.

It was in 1975 that I first encountered Pasquini’s oratorio Cain e Abel in the Vatican Film Library at St Louis University (USA), when a fellow student showed me a copy of the manuscript. This chance discovery propelled my lifetime career as a lirone player, but more importantly fuelled an enduring interest in the instrument’s extraordinary repertoire and its fascinating cultural ambience. Thirty-five years later I have finally been able to realise the dream of recording, staging and filming a considerable amount of Rome’s vast and extraordinary repertoire for our series Reliquie di Roma. And in this second recording, it is with great satisfaction that we can finally share Cain’s lament with the musical public.

Erin Headley



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‘Performed as here with great care and the lightest of touches under director Erin Headley, the best is strikingly beautiful..'

'Marco Marazzoli (1602-1662) was a priest and composer who entered the service of Cardinal Berberini in Rome in 1626. His output did include operas, but Marazzoli devoted more of his energy to the oratorio, at least seven of which were to Italian texts, rather than the usual Latin. The most significant of them was the last, this Oratorio di Santa Caterina, completed in 1660, and based upon the life of the martyr Saint Catherine, daughter of the king of Alexandria. The only surviving source of the oratorio (in the Vatican library) is badly damaged, and so this recording, the latest in Atalante's series devoted to works from 17th- century Rome, is based in part on a reconstruction. Some of it may be routine, but performed as here with great care and the lightest of touches under director Erin Headley, the best is strikingly beautiful, especially Piango la tua Sventura, the lament accompanied by a lirone that is sung by a Roman soldier just before Catherine is put to death. The disc also includes an aria, another lament, from Cain e Abel by Bernado Pasquini, a Roman composer some 30 years younger than Marazzolli.'  Andrew Clements, The Guardian

'The oratorio concludes with the martyr's Caro sposo, sung with poetic nuance and blissful sweetness by Katherine Watson.' Gramophone Magazine

'The main roles are taken by Katherine Watson and Christian Immler. The former is certainly not chosen because of her Christian name. She turns out to be an excellent choice because of her vocal qualities. She portrays St Catherine perfectly, with an impressive account of the recitatives in truly speechlike manner. The beauty and sweetness of her voice is suitable for her arias whose expressive character is fully explored. Christian Immler is very convincing as emperor Massimo, and one can hear his increasing anger about St Catherine's uncompromising stance. The smaller roles of the soldiers, the testo and Faith and Hope are appropriately sung. Juan Sancho is particularly good in the above-mentioned lament with lirone.

It rounds off another very fine disc by this ensemble. The repertoire of vocal music of a dramatic character of the mid-17th century in Rome is voluminous. The quality of the Roman music of this time and the standard of the performances make me look forward to upcoming projects from Atalante.' Johan van Veen, August 2012

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