Strozzi: Sino alla morte - Cantata for Soprano and Continuo
Barbara Strozzi's Cantata Sino alla morte for soprano (c'-b'' flat) and and basso continuo.
Sino alla morte, the first Cantata of Op. 7, is an exhilarating, through-composed piece, lasting approximately 14 minutes, and asserting that the fires of love cannot be extinguished. It begins in 3 with a typical Passacaglia formula in the continuo which introduces a series of sequences on the first words, vowing eternal love “until death”. This first Refrain, ingeniously extended, continues for 49 bars. The Grave contains a series of contrasting arioso passages over predominantly falling bass lines, in which the lover describes the features of his beloved which he knows time will alter.
Three 2-part Arias, all in triple time, follow, each concluding with the Refrain and the Passacaglia bass. The continuo lines of these arias imitate and complement the varied figures of the vocal line. The lover opens his heart to joy, undeterred even by jealousy and/or absence, adding vows to vows...”until death”.
Strozzi then reuses the music of the first part of the first Aria to set Può la fortuna. The lover feels so invulnerable that he breaks off his challenge to Fortune at the end of the first part, to begin in the style of an instrumental canzona in C, with a dactylic rhythm in the voice, continuing with octave leaps and energetic passages imitated in the continuo. A final 2-bar ostinato, also based on the descending scale, is then introduced by the bass, occurring 12 times, over which the voice has tumultuous figures, leaps, and virtuoso scales, asserting that not even such a series of ‘tsunamis’ could put out the sparks of love!