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Costanzo ANTEGNATI (1549 - 1624): 12 Ricercari

Federico Del Sordo, harpsichorda, clavichordb, organc

rec: Sept, Oct & Nov 2017, Rome, Modus Inveniendi Studiosab; Brescia, Chiesa S. Maria del Carminec
Brilliant Classics - 95628 ( 2018) (58'08")
Liner-notes: E
Cover & track-list

Costanzo ANTEGNATI: Ricercar del 1 tonoc; Ricercar del 2 tonoc; Ricercar del 3 tonoc; Ricercar del 4 tonoa; Ricercar del 5 tonoc; Ricercar del 6 tonoa; Ricercar del 7 tonoc; Ricercar del 8 tonoa; Ricercar del 9 tonoc; Ricercar del 10 tonoc; Ricercar del 11 tonoa; Ricercar del 12 tonoc; Anton HOLZNER (c1599-1635): Canzon [I]a; Canzon [II]a; Canzon [III]a; Ercole PASQUINI (?-1608/19): Toccata [del 7 tono]b; Vincenzo PELLEGRINI (c1562-1630): Canzon La Serpentinab; Agostino SODERINI (fl 1598-1608): Canzon La Ducalinab

The name Antegnati may ring a bell with many lovers of organ music. It is the name of one of the main dynasties of organ builders in Italy. It was especially active in the province of Brescia, between Milan and Verona. However, its organs can also be found in cities such as Bergamo, Mantua, Milan and Venice. It is assumed that the Antegnatis built around 400 instruments.

Some members of the Antegnati dynasty were also active as organists, among them Costanzo, who worked with his father as an organ builder since 1570, and was organist at Brescia Cathedral from 1584 to 1624. He also manifested himself as a composer, not only of keyboard music, but also of madrigals and sacred music. This part of his activities has hardly been noticed. It is telling that in New Grove, he is included in the article devoted to the organ builder dynasty, but is not treated separately as a composer. The article also omits a work-list.

Most of his compositions are not available in modern editions, which explains why he is not well represented on disc. The keyboard works are the exception, but even these are seldom performed and recorded. Some of his keyboard works have been included in anthologies, and in 2000 Tactus released a disc with twelve Ricercari and fifteen Canzoni, performed by Paul Kenyon at an organ from 1556 in the Basilica di San Martino Maggiore in Bologna.

Federico Del Sordo confines himself to the twelve Ricercari. The ricercare is one of the main forms of music for keyboard or plucked instruments of the 16th and 17th centuries. It is a relatively free form, and it is notable that, according to New Grove, "[few] early authors attempted a comprehensive definition of the ricercare". It appears in various forms: imitative, sometimes close to a fugue, or with the features of a prelude. Ricercares sometimes also had their roots in vocal music, such as motets. Antegnati included his ricercari, which are in the twelve modi, under the collective title of L'Antegnata, in his opus 16, which was published in 1608 by Gardano in Venice. Part of this edition is also a treatise with the title L'Arte Organica, which includes detailed descriptions of organs built by the Antegnati firm as well as advice on the ways in which their stops should be combined. Obviously this is of major importance for modern performers. Del Sordo has used it for his interpretations.

Antegnati's Ricercari were included in a large anthology of keyboard music from Italy and northern Europe, which was compiled between 1637 and 1640 under the title of Intvolatura d'organo tedesca. This attests to the appreciation of these pieces. Although they are included in a book devoted to the organ, they can easily be performed at a strung keyboard instrument. Del Sordo decided to play some of them on the harpsichord. Italian organs usually did not have a pedalboard, and therefore many keyboard works can be played on any keyboard instrument, and that includes the fretted clavichord which Del Sordo uses in three items.

Whereas Kenyon mixed the Ricercari with the fifteen Canzoni, Del Sordo turned to music by some of Antegnati's contemporaries. Some of these pieces may be new to the catalogue. That certainly goes for the three canzonas by Anton Holzner. Only two have been recorded in the 1970s, by Franz Lehrndorfer, but it seems likely that his recording is not available anymore. Holzner was from Lower Bavaria and worked most of his life at the court in Munich, first as a boy singer, than as court organist. In between he travelled to Italy; he visited Rome, and there he may have come into contact with Girolamo Frescobaldi.

Vincenzo Pellegrini was from Pesaro, worked some time in Urbino and then moved to Milan, where he became organist at the Cathedral. Whereas he was rather conservative in most of his sacred music, he also composed motets in the stile moderno. His most modern and imaginative works are his instrumental canzonas. The Canzona La Serpentina fits this description well.

Another little-known figure is Agostino Soderini, who around 1600 was organist of the congregation of Lateran nuns at S Maria della Passione in Milan. The Canzon La Ducalina is taken from his only extant collection of music, consisting of canzoni in four and eight parts. It is perfectly legitimate to perform such pieces for instrumental ensemble at the keyboard.

The probably best-known composer included here is Ercole Pasquini, who worked for most of his life in Rome, where in 1597 he was elected organist of the Cappella Giulia. Not that many of his compositions have survived; they were never published. His toccatas consist of several short sections. Pasquini is considered one of the main predecessors of Frescobaldi.

Federico Del Sordo plays a splendid organ, built in 1629/30 by Tomaso Meiarini. It was modified in the 19th century and the early 1900s, but in 1962 and again in 1991 it was restored to its original condition. The harpsichord is a copy of an anonymous Italian instrument of the 17th century. The clavichord was constructed after a diagram in Syntagma Musicum (1620) by Michael Praetorius.

Del Sordo delivers excellent performances, well articulated, with nice ornamentation. His nimble fingers deal easily with the virtuosity of some of the pieces, such as the Ricercar del 12 tono. It was a good decision to record the pieces on harpsichord and clavichord in a different venue; the large church of S. Maria del Carmine in Brescia would have caused considerable problems because of its acoustic. Fortunately these have been avoided.

Brilliant Classics has established a reputation for releasing discs with little-known keyboard music. The present disc is a nice and important addition to its growing corpus of keyboard recordings.

Johan van Veen ( 2019)

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