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"In festo angelorum - A journey through Spanish, Portuguese and Italian Baroque sacred music"

Monica Piccinini, sopranoa; Manuel Vilas, harp

rec: July 2008, Lugo, San Vicente de Pombeiro
Brilliant Classics - 94428 (© 2012) (68'05")
Liner-notes: E/S; lyrics - no translations
Cover & track-list

anon: Amavit cum dominusa; In feria sexta. Lectio IIIa; Italianas ou estrageiras; Toccata on themes of Corelli; Fabritio FONTANA (?-1695): Ricercare XI [4]; Giovanni MARCIANI (c1605-1663): Quanta fecisti dominea [2]; Domenico MAZZOCCHI (1592-1665): Sonetto: Amar a Dios por Diosa [1]; Giovanni Maria PAGLIARDI (1637-1702): Ad'arma, ad bellaa [3]; Juan Manuel DE LA PUENTE (1692-1753): Meninas de Portugala; Alessandro STRADELLA (1639-1682): Ah, ah, troppo č ver (Ah riverito piede - Deh' ricevi i nostri voti, rec & aria)a; José DE TORRES (c1670-1738): Stetit angelus (In festo angelorum)a [5]; José DE VAQUEDANO (1642-1711): Lamentación: Matribus suis dixerunta

[1] Domenico Mazzocchi, Musiche sacre e morali a una, due e tre voci, 1640; [2] Francesco Moneta, ed, Florido de Silvestre. Has alias sacras cantiones, ab excellentissimus musices auctoribus suavissimus modulis unica voce contextas, 1659; [3] Ignacio de Lazaris, ed, Floridus canonicus de silvestres, Istas alias arias cantiones ab excellentissimis musices auctoribus, 1665; [4] Fabritio Fontana, Ricercari di Fabritio Fontana torinese, organista di S. Pietro in Vaticano, 1677; [5] Francisco de Montanos, ed, Arte de canto llano, 1712

The music on this disc was composed during the 17th century in Italy, Spain and Portugal. The vocal pieces have in common that they are for solo voice and basso continuo, and reflect the monodic style which emerged in Italy in the early 17th century. One important aspect of the 'new style' as it was called, is the close connection between text and music. This is largely lost on the listener who doesn't know Latin or Spanish as the booklet includes the lyrics but omits any translation. This is a serious blot on a musically interesting and compelling programme.

One of the attractions of this disc is that most of the composers here are barely known. The programme opens with a piece by Giovanni Maria Pagliardi, who was born in Genoa and died in Florence. The largest part of his life he worked in Genoa. His oeuvre includes operas, an oratorio which has been lost, motets, chamber cantatas, arias and sacred madrigals. His cantata Ad'arma, ad bella (To arms, to war) is about the war of the faithful against the devil. His battle is illustrated by musical figures. The programme includes two pieces on texts of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, which were sung during Holy Week. The first is from the pen of José de Vaquedano who acted as maestro de capilla in Santiago de Compostela from 1681 to 1700. The second is anonymous, and has been preserved as part of a manuscript from the Bouro Monastery which is now in the Public Library and District Archive of Braga in Portugal. Both are from the Lamentations for Good Friday - the Lessons II and III respectively. As was common practice the Hebrew letters are set to extended melismas.

Another anonymous piece, Amavit cum dominus, is also taken from the Braga manuscript. Stylistically this brings us back to early Italian monody. The text has just three lines, but the piece lasts more than six minutes thanks to the elaborate ornamentation in the style of Caccini. Quite suprising is Amar a Dios por Dios by Domenico Mazzocchi. He was one of the most prominent composers in Rome in the mid-17th century. The use of Spanish in this piece is noteworthy. It was part of a collection of music for private worship. A contemporary of Mazzocchi's was Giovanni Marciani, who worked the most part of his life in Rome. He was for some time a tenor in the Collegio Germanico under Giacomo Carissimi who influenced Marciani's style of composing. The latest Italian composer in the programme is Alessandro Stradella who led a turbulent life and was murdered in 1682. 'Ah riverito piede - Deh' ricevi i nostri voti' are a recitative and aria sung by the First Shepherd from Ah, ah, troppo č ver, a cantata for Christmas eve.

There are two more Spanish composers in the programme. José de Torres y Martínez Bravo, to use his full name, was a composer, theorist, organist and publisher. In the latter capacity he printed many theoretical works from previous eras in Spanish music history. Juan Manuel de la Puente started his career as a choirboy in the cathedral of Toledo and worked the largest part of his life as maestro de capilla in Jáen cathedral where he was appointed at the age of just 19. Meninas de Portugal (Girls of Portugal) is a Christmas piece in the style of a villancico with a number of verses interrupted by a refrain.

The programme is extended by some instrumental pieces. Fabrizio Fontana is a little-known composer who worked most of his life in Rome. The Ricercari which were printed in 1677 are in the style of Frescobaldi and are dominated by counterpoint. The Braga manuscript includes "Italian or foreign dances for organ or harp", as they are called, in a mostly French style. Manuel Vilas plays five pieces: a sarabanda, an aria, a pair of menuets, a piece without a title and another menuet. In the cathedral of Jaca in northern Spain a manuscript is kept which includes a large number of instrumental works. One of these is a Toccata which is a transcription of the corrente and giga from the Sonata da camera op. 2,8 by Corelli. It is a token of the influence of Italian music in Spain which was growing around 1700.

This disc contains an interesting programme of largely unknown pieces by mostly little-known composers. It shows the depth of the Italian music scene of the 17th century of which we know only the tip of the iceberg. The Spanish compositions are an indication of the influence of the Italian style in the Iberian peninsula which has been underrated for a long time

Monica Piccinini has the perfect voice for this kind of repertoire. She demonstrates a good understanding of the idiom reflected in her treatment of the text as well as the dynamics. These are crucial to the interpretation. The accompaniment with harp rather than keyboard offers a nice variety and is rarely encountered in this repertoire.

The quality of the repertoire and the performance are reasons to welcome this disc. It is just a shame that translations of the lyrics are omitted.

Johan van Veen (© 2013)

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Monica Piccinini

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