musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Harp and keyboard music from 17th-century Italy

[I] "L'arpa di Partenope - Harp Music from Early Baroque Naples"
Margret Köll, arpa doppia
rec: July 2012, Berlin-Neukölln, Evangelische Brüdergemeinde
Accent - ACC 24192 (© 2014) (56'27")
Liner-notes: E/F/D
Cover, track-list & booklet

Antonio DE CABEZÓN (1510-1566): Diferencias sobre la Pavana Italiana; Para quien crie yo cabellos, romance; Tiento del 1 tono; Carlo GESUALDO da Venosa (1566-1613): Gagliarda del Principe di Venosa; Francesco LAMBARDO (1587-1642): Toccata; Giovanni LEONARDO dall'Arpa (c1525-1602): Io navigai un tempo; Giovanni DE MACQUE (1550-1614): Durezze, e ligature; Seconda Gagliarda; Seconde Stravaganze; Ascanio MAYONE (1565-1627): Partite sopra Fidele; Ricercar sopra il Canto fermo di Constantio Festa; Toccata I; Giovanni Domenico DA NOLA (1510-1592): Venga quel bel Narcisso; Lucas Ruiz DE RIBAYAZ (1650-?): Achas; Bacas; Espanoletas; Ruggiero; Xacaras; Giovanni Maria TRABACI (1575-1647): Ancidetemi pur, per l'Arpa; Toccata II, & Ligature per l'Arpa

[II] "Italia! - Harpsichord Music of the 17th century by Italians and 'oltramontani'"
Anne Marie Dragosits, harpsichorda, spinetb
rec: Dec 2011, Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum
fra bernardo - fb 1305182 (© 2013) (59'53")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover & track-list

anon: Preludio Arpeggiob; Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643): Partite sopra Passacaglia [4]; Johann Jacob FROBERGER (1616-1667): Partita II in d minor (FbWV 602)a [5]; Toccata II in d minor (FbWV 102)a [5]; Giovanni Girolamo KAPSPERGER (c1580-1651): Giunto il sole in Occidente (arr.AM Dragosits)b [3]; Johann Caspar KERLL (1627-1693): Canzona Ia; Toccata Ia; Georg MUFFAT (1653-1704): Passacaglia in g minora [8]; Bernardo PASQUINI: Partite sopra Folliaa [9]; Giovanni PICCHI (c1572-1643): La Todescab [2]; Passamezzoa [2]; Giovanni RADINO (c1550-c1607): Gagliarda Ib [1]; Gagliarda IIb [1]; Michelangelo ROSSI (c1601-c1670): Toccata VIIa [6]; Bernardo STORACE (c1637-c1707): Ciaconnaa [7]

Sources: [1] Giovanni Maria Radino, Il primo libro d'intavolatura di balli d'Arpicordo, 1594; [2] Giovanni Picchi, Intavolatura di balli d'Arpicordo, 1621; [3] Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger, Libro quinto di villanelle, 1630; [4] Girolamo Frescobaldi, Libro primo di toccate e partite, 1637; [5] Johann Jacob Froberger, Libro secondo di toccate, fantasie, canzone, allemande, , courante, sarabande, gigue et altre partite, 1649; [6] Michelangelo Rossi, Toccate e correnti d'intavolatura d'organo e cimbalo, 1657; [7] Bernardo Storace, Selva di varie compositioni d'intavolatura per cimbalo ed organo, 1664; [8] Georg Muffat, Apparatus musico-organisticus, 1690; [9] Bernardo Pasquini, Sonate per gravecembalo ..., 1702

It makes much sense to review discs with music for harp and music for keyboard of the 17th century jointly. Relatively little music was specifically composed for the harp. The repertoire for keyboard, harp and plucked instruments, such as the lute and the theorbo, was largely interchangeable. It is telling that the large majority of the pieces Margret Köll selected for her recording are taken from collections of keyboard music. Sometimes a title includes an indication that it was conceived for the harp (Trabaci, Toccata II, & Ligature per l'Arpa), but the fact that such pieces are included in books of keyboard music shows that they could also be played on a keyboard instrument. Sometimes alternatives were indicated in the titles. That is the case, for instance, in the collection of music by Antonio de Cabezón which was published posthumously under the title Obras de musica para tecla, arpa y vihuela (1578).

The harp is one of the oldest instruments in history. It has often been considered a 'royal' instrument, especially because it was the instrument King David played, as is told in the Old Testament of the Bible. In the Middle Ages it played an important role, especially in the accompaniment of singers. At the end of the 16th century it started to rise to even more prominence, not only for accompaniment, but also as a solo instrument in music of considerable virtuosity. In this development Naples played a key role. Here several significant builders and players of the arpa doppia were active, some of whom are mentioned in the booklet to Margret Köll's disc. Few of the harpists of those days have left any compositions. One of the exceptions is Giovanni Leonarda dell'Arpa; about 15 pieces from his pen were included in anthologies. Io navigai un tempo is one of them; it is an intabulation of a villanella. Such intabulations were characteristic of the prima prattica. Considering Carlo Gesualdo's interest in experiments with forms and harmony it is hardly surprising that he called dell'Arpa's style "somewhat old-fashioned". Compare this piece - and also Venga quel bel Narcisso, an intabulation by Giovanni Domenico da Nola - with Gesualdo's Gagliarda del Principe di Venosa, the only extant instrumental piece from his pen. With its frequent chromaticism and dissonants it is the counterpart of the madrigals from his last two books.

The same sense for experiment comes to the fore in the compositions by Giovanni de Macque, Giovanni Maria Trabaci and Ascanio Mayone. The former was in the service of the Gesualdo household for a number of years, but Gesualdo certainly must have known the others as well. De Macque's Durezze, e ligature is an example of a piece which demonstrates the composer's interest in harmonic experiments, and so is his Seconde Stravaganze as all pieces of the time with the word stravaganze or in their title. It means "extravagance" and that is exactly how such pieces must have been experienced by people who were grown up with the strictly organized counterpoint of the prima prattica. Another new element of the seconda prattica was the composing of instrumental music which was not based on vocal models, such as toccatas and gagliardas. The toccata was a form rooted in the practice of improvisation which was the main skill expected from any player of keyboard, harp or plucked instruments. However, that does not mean that vocal music was banned from instrumental music. Trabaci's virtuosic divisions on the madrigal Ancidetemi pur by Jacques Arcadelt prove otherwise. Mayone based a ricercar on the canto fermo of a vocal work by Constanzo Festa (c1485/90-1545).

The inclusion of music by Spanish composers makes sense. Since 1503 Naples was part of the Spanish Empire, and De Macque was maestro of the Chapel of the Spanish Viceroy from 1599. In the booklet Chiara Granata sees the origins of some forms of Italian music in Spain. "Dances with ornamentation (glosas) formed the starting point for the Italian tradition of instrumental musical forms with variations, and the polyphony of the tientos served as a model for intabulated chansons." Hence the inclusion of Tiento del primer tono and Para quien crie yo cabellos by De Cabezón. The Spanish rule of Naples ended only in the early 18th century, and until that time Spanish music continued to influence music life in Naples, and from there also Italy at large. It especially resulted in a quick dissemination of the Spanish guitar for which various Italian composers started to write, both music for guitar solo and songs with accompaniment of the Spanish guitar. The pieces by Ribayaz can serve as examples of music for the Spanish guitar; the performances by Margret Köll show that they can perfectly be played on the harp.

This disc is a fine introduction to the Italian music for the harp and its versatility. Margret Köll is an experienced interpreter who has taken part in many recordings of 17th-century repertoire. Here she shows her qualities as a soloist. She is a brilliant and stylish player who convincingly brings out the specific features of the various pieces in her programme. The many twists and turns in the 'extravagant' compositions come off very well.

In a way Anne Marie Dragosits links up with Margret Köll's disc by bringing together music from the same period, albeit from other places in Italy, and music by composers from later generations who were influenced by the masters of the early 17th century. She also adds music by composers from northern parts of Europe, the oltramontani who went to Italy to broaden their horizon. Three of the most famous among them are represented: Johann Jakob Froberger, Johann Caspar Kerll and Georg Muffat. With the latter we have arrived at the end of the 17th century.

Only Froberger was a direct pupil of Girolamo Frescobaldi, the Roman keyboard virtuoso who was - alongside Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck of Amsterdam - the most influential keyboard master in Europe. Froberger was instrumental in the dissemination of his style across Europe, through his own compositions but also through his visits to various countries, for instance France. Here he met Louis Couperin and made him acquainted with the Italian music of the time. Frescobaldi himself was strongly influenced by the Neapolitan masters we met at Margret Köll's disc.

Michelangelo Rossi is often mentioned as one of Frescobaldi's pupils, but that is incorrect. However, he was clearly under his influence, and so were Barnardo Pasquini - who was considered the greatest keyboard virtuoso in Italy after Frescobaldi's death - and Bernardo Storace. The Germans Kerll and Muffat were also in Rome well after Frescobaldi had died, but even so his influence is traceable in their keyboard music.

Anne Marie Dragosits' disc also includes pieces two less well-known composers: Giovanni Picchi and Giovanni Maria Radini. The Passamezzo by Picchi is one of the many sets of variations on this dance in duple metre which was highly popular in Italy. From Radino we also hear two dances, Gagliarda I and II. An anonymous Preludio Arpeggio refers once again to the practice of improvisation. Ms Dragosits also plays a piece by Kapsperger, a theorbo virtuoso of German birth who also composed some vocal music. Giunto il sole in Occidente is an example of intabulation, this time from the performer's pen and a reference to a wide-spread practice of the previous century.

The inclusion of pieces from the 16th century, dominated by counterpoint, and pieces by composers of the 17th who represent the seconda prattica, makes this programme an interesting lesson in music history. Ms Dragosits plays two splendid historical instruments which are part of the collection of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg. The harpsichord dates from 1681 and was built by Giovanni Battista Giusti, the spinet was built in 1564 by Brunetto Veronensis, also known as Bruneto delli Organi. Their meantone temperament guarantees that the harmonic peculiarities come off perfectly. The right tuning is a prerequisite for an optimum communication of the affetti of these keyboard works. The interpretations are generally excellent. I especially enjoyed the Passamezzo by Picchi, the pieces by Kerll and the older works from the 16th century. Only in Rossi's Toccata VII I find the performance a little too restrained.

All in all this disc, with its mixture of well-known and less familiar repertoire, played on two magnificent historical keyboards, is highly recommendable.

Johan van Veen (© 2015)

Relevant links:

Anne Marie Dragosits
Margret Köll

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