Babylon. A domineering king haunted by silence, alone in his madness, defied by three young Jews from Judah. In this premiere recording of Falvetti's 1683 Il Dialogo del Nabucco Leonardo García Alarcón explores a libertarian oratorio peopled by characters of far-reaching allegorical significance. Music of powerful sensuality and Mediterranean expressivity.
The first wave of beauty washes over you 44 seconds in. Those dreamy, breathy flutes! The second wave hits at 3 minutes as two siren-like sopranos (of the sailor-luring rather than the whining ambulance variety) echo each other beguilingly. I don’t like to be a quick-draw with words like ‘ravishing’ and ‘beguilingly’, but I see no way around it for Cappella Mediterranea, the Spanish ensemble that has now brought back two works by Michelangelo Favletti (1642-1692) to see the light of day.
The Calabrian composer and priest was Maestro di cappella in Palermo before relocating to Messina in Sicily while the city was under Spanish rule, which accounts for the exotic touches of kaval, galoubet pipes, haunting duduk, and bass chalumeau that enrich this premiere recording.
This six-voice dialoghi oratorio was composed in 1683. Falvetti draws on the Book of Daniel to relate the story of the three youths condemned by King Nebuchadnezzar to be thrown into a fiery furnace for refusing to worship an idol. There are so many splendid moments one wonders why most of Falvetti’s output was itself consigned to the proverbial flames. From the orchestral prologue’s evocation of the flow of the river Euphrates, to the other-worldly harmonies of the trio in the face of death, to the fierce castanets and syncopation of the “blazing abyss”, this disc will have you spellbound.