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Nicolò CORRADINI & Fr Mattia VENDI: Ricercari & Canzoni

Federico Del Sordo, harpsichorda, organb

rec: July 2019, Mantua, Basilica Palatina di S. Barbarab; Oct 2019, Rome, Pontificio Istituto di Musica Sacra (Sala Accademica)a
Brilliant Classics - 96136 (© 2021) (64'39")
Liner-notes: E/IT
Cover & track-list

Niccolò CORRADINI (?-1646): Ricercar del 1° tuono. Di quattro fugheb; Ricercar del 2° tuono. Di due fugheb; Ricercar del 3° tuono. Di quattro fugheb; Ricercar del 4° tuono. Di quattro fugheb; Ricercar del 5° tuono. Di quattro fughea; Ricercar del 6° tuono. Di due fughea; Ricercar del 7° tuono. Di quattro fugheb; Ricercar del 8° tuono. Di cinque fughea; Ricercar del 9° tuono. Con tre fughea; Ricercar del 10° tuono. Con tre fugheb; Ricercar del 11° tuono. Con tre fugheb; Ricercar del 12° tuono. Di quattro fugheb; Fr. Mattia VENDI (early 17th C): Canzon III tonib; Canzon II tonib; Canzon II tonib; Canzon VII tonia; Canzon I tonib; Canzon VIII tonia

Sources: Niccolò Corradini, Ricercari a 4 voci, 1615

During the last ten years or so, Brilliant Classics has built up an impressive catalogue of recordings of keyboard music. It includes complete recordings of the keyboard oeuvre of some of the great masters of the baroque period, such as François Couperin, Domenico Scarlatti and, of course, Johann Sebastian Bach. A special place take recordings of Italian repertoire of the 16th and 17th centuries. No matter how important was the release of the complete keyboard works of Girolamo Frescobaldi, the many recordings of music by little-known composers are even more welcome, in particular as this repertoire is played by specialists from Italy on appropriate instruments, including some of the finest organs of the time. The disc under review here is another fine addition to the growing discography.

The main aim of Federico Del Sordo was the recording of the complete set of ricercares by Nicolò Corradini. He is not that well-known, although some of his instrumental works are included in anthologies, and his set of canzonas, published in Venice in 1620, has been recorded by the Aulos Consort (Tactus, 1995). He was probably born in Cremona, where he worked for most of his life. In 1611 he was given the post of organist at the Church of San Pietro, and in 1635 he became organist at the Cathedral. He was held in high esteem, witness the fact that he received the title of Musicus Praefectus at the Academia degli Animosi, one of Cremona's main cultural institutions.

Corradini's extant oeuvre is rather small. In 1613 he published a book of motets for one to four voices and basso continuo as his Opus 1 in Venice. In 1615 a book with twelve ricercares came from the press, again in Venice. This collection is the subject of the present disc. Lastly, in 1624 he published his canzonas mentioned above. Like the book of ricercares, the title only refers to the number of parts (four). This leaves it to the interpreter(s) to decide how to perform them. Del Sordo, in his liner-notes, states that "the canzoni are clearly better suited to a group of multiple instruments". That is the reason that he confined himself to the ricercares, which are also for four voices.

The ricercare was one of the main genres of the renaissance. New Grove says: "Originally the term 'ricercare' was used for a piece of preludial character for lute or keyboard instrument (as in the expression "ricercare le corde", "to try out the strings") (...). The commonest type subsequently was the imitative ricercare, similar in scope to the fantasia and fugue." The latter is the case with the ricercares by Corradini. Each of them is in one of the twelve church modes, and each of them has several themes, called fughe. The Ricercar del 6° tuono has two fugues, the Ricercar del 8° tuono five. Most comprise three or four subjects. The dominance of the form of the fugue marks the transition of the 16th-century ricercare to the fugue of the late 17th and the 18th century. Del Sordo points out that the character of these ricercares is varied, and suggests different instruments. "While the ricercars in the first, second, fourth and twelfth modes (here performed on the organ), for example, demand a slow pace and a clear legato, the 'nervous' rhythmic figure of the Ricercar del terzo tuono requires more vigorous articulation, just as the canzone-like spirit that emerges from the Ricercar dell'ottavo tuono (here played on the harpsichord) necessitates a faster tempo".

The ricercares by Corradini would take a little over 50 minutes, which leaves space for additional music. Del Sordo selected the six canzonas by a composer known only as Fr. Mat (or Maa) Vendi. He is what one may call an unknown quantity; he has no entry in New Grove. Whether "Fr." is short for a Christian name or rather refers to his being a member of a religious brotherhood is not known. What Mat or Maa stands for is also not known; it could be Matteo or - as is the choice in the track-list - Mattia. The canzonas performed here have been preserved in manuscript at the Staatsbiliothek in Berlin. The canzona was another important genre, which was originally the instrumental imitation of a chanson. It could be performed by a single instrument or by an instrumental ensemble (as was already noted with regard to the canzonas of Corradini). These six pieces can be dated to around the 1610s or 1620s.

As I wrote at the start of this review, one of the features of recordings of Italian keyboard music released by Brilliant Classics, is the use of Italian historical instruments. The present disc is a perfect example. The organ pieces are played on one of the finest renaissance organs, the one in the famous basilica of Mantua, where once Claudio Monteverdi worked. It was built by one of the greatest Italian organ makers, Graziado Antegnati. One of its features is that it has three split keys on all but the lowest octave. The temperament is 1/4 comma meantone. It is the best possible instrument to bring the organ pieces to life. The harpsichord is a copy of a 17th-century instrument, with a temperament of 1/5 comma meantone.

Federico Del Sordo is a specialist in this kind of repertoire, and delivers fully idiomatic performances of these pieces by Corradini and Vendi. The choice of tempi, the articulation and fine sense of rhythm make this disc an exciting adventure. The names of the composers may not immediately ring a bell even with organ aficionados, but the music performed here is excellent stuff. This disc is a nice addition to any collection of keyboard recordings.

Johan van Veen (© 2022)

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