Angels, confused shepherds - the
devil “shooting up in the air like a rocket!” - I Fagiolini brings an animated cast of Christmas characters to life in foot-tapping music from Italy, Germany, England and Spain.
Cristoforo Caresana - La Tarantella (1673)
A Neapolitan cantata (practically a pantomime) with the Devil symbolizing the Spanish occupation. Virtuosic angels sing to confused shepherds with echo jokes worthy of Monteverdi's 'Audi coelum'. A hypnotic Tarantella dance wards off the devil who appears with slightly butch demons before his dramatic departure. Truly a musical and comic gem that needed to be uncovered (and performed more often than Messiah...)
Iribarren - Xacara de Navidad (c.1750)
A ‘Xácara’ is “a gathering of ruffians and rogues, picaresque women - but more noisy and high-spirited than criminal”. Justice is done to that description with castanets, percussion and guitars while ‘Bato's little song’ brings “the Devil down in flames!” Foot-tapping joie-de-vivre from start to finish.
J.S.Bach - Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (1713)
One of Bach's earliest but most popular cantatas, highlighting Luther's great Advent melody. Rocking solo for tenor, intimate aria for soprano while the strings' pizzicato symbolically paints Advent itself knocking on the door of Christ's arrival.
Claudio Monteverdi - Beatus vir (1640)
Surely one of his best-loved pieces with catchy violin interludes over repeating bassline, sensual triple time middle section and resounding Amen. I Fagiolini's performance is spritely, following recent research on time relationships.
William Byrd - Lullaby (1588)
As a serene interlude, Byrd's intricate consort song, sung by the Virgin Mother.
Director Robert Hollingworth