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Gaspare TORELLI (1572 - c1613): Amorose Faville, Il Quarto Libro delle Canzonette a tre voci (Venezia, 1608)

Gruppo Vocale Armoniosoincanto
Dir: Franco Radicchia

rec: Oct & Nov 2019, Jan & Feb 2020, Perugia, Chiesa di Sant'Antonio Abate
Brilliant Classics - 96240 (© 2021) (69'13")
Liner-notes: E; lyrics - no translations
Cover & track-list

An misier Cuculin; Aspro desir; Chasi cha se te branco; Chi può mirarvi; Chiare christiallin' onde; Chiude nel vago viso; Da voi mia chiara e bella; Di Medea crud'è quella; Dimmi crudel Amore; Divin'alta beltate; Donna tu sei più bella; Filli mia, dolce mio amore; Io son già morto ahi lasso; Mentre la bella Clori; Mi rid'e prendo gioco; Morrò per voi mio sole; Non partir non fuggir; Perché sempre mi fuggi; Poi ch'il sperar m'è tolto; Ridon i prati; Tra fiori e fresche erbette; Tu non cessi donare

Caterina Becchetti, Francesca Maraziti, Sauretta Ragni, Elena Vigorito, soprano; Mauro Presazzi, alto; Emilio Seri, tenor; Riccardo Forcignano, Francesco Palmieri, baritone; Fabrizio Lepri, viola da gamba; Luca D'Amore, lute; Nicolò Biccheri, harpsichord

Most music lovers may know a composer with the name Torelli. He lived from 1658 to 1709 and has become best known for his instrumental music, in which the trumpet takes a particularly important part. However, his namesake to whom the present disc is devoted, had the Christian name of Gasparo and was a contemporary of Carlo Gesualdo. He was born in Borgo S Sepolcro (now Sansepolcro), in the province of Arezzo, came from a family of functionaries and intellectuals and was a member of the clergy. His extant compositional oeuvre is exclusively secular, though. It is known for sure that at least one book with canzonettas has been lost, as this disc includes the complete canzonettas of the fourth book of 1608, and the first and second book date of 1593 and 1594 respectively.

New Grove defines the canzonetta thus: "A title given to a light secular vocal piece, particularly in the Italian style, from the late 16th century to the late 18th. As a normal diminutive of 'canzone' (song), the term may refer generically to any short, simple song." It was a very popular form of vocal chamber music, which originally was in strong contrast to the more serious madrigal, but with time adopted some of the latter's features and became generally a little more sophisticated. The choice of texts also became wider: originally they were mostly of an amorous nature, but later composers also started to set texts of a pastoral character. Canzonettas were always strophic; Torelli's canzonettas comprise two to four stanzas of different length, from three to six lines, and each falling into two parts, the first taking the character of a refrain.

Canzonettas could be scored for three to six voices, but canzonettas for three voices seems to have been the rule. Here the scoring is mostly for two sopranos and bass; some canzonettas require three male voices. In some of the pieces, the performers decided for a line-up of two female voices and lute. One wonders why instruments are involved in the performances at all. The title page seems not to give any indication in this regard. Unfortunately the liner-notes don't discuss aspects of performance practice. Obviously the instruments have no obbligato parts and follow the vocal lines. In some pieces they play a kind of interlude by performing the vocal parts.

The liner-notes do point out that elements in the text are illustrated in the music. Those who don't read Italian have to take the author's word for it, because the booklet omits English translations of the lyrics. That is very regrettable. Even so, this music is good enough to be enjoyed without them. However, given the nature of these pieces, it is probably wise not to listen to this disc at a stretch.

The singers do a fine job. The singing is lively and attentive to the text; the ensemble is excellent. Now and then a slight vibrato is notable, but it is hardly disturbing. Those who have a special liking of the secular vocal chamber music of the period will certainly enjoy this disc, which shows that there is still much to discover beyond what is known from the main composers of the late 16th and early 17th centuries in Italy.

Johan van Veen (© 2021)

Relevant links:

Gruppo Vocale Armoniosoincanto

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