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"Treasury of a Saint"

rec: 28 - 30 November, 2005, Utrecht (Neth), Pieterskerk
Challenge Classics - CC72161(© 2006) (75'19")

Giovanni Antonio Bertoli (1598-after 1645): Sonata VIIcd [6]; Philipp Heinrich Böddecker (1615-1683): Sonata La Monicacd [8]; Giovanni Battista Bovicelli (c1550-c1597): Angelus ad pastores (after De Rore)ad; Philipp Friedrich Buchner (1614-1669): Sonata IXbcd [9]; Juan Bautista José Cabanilles (1644-1712): Gallardas Id; Giovanni Martino Cesare (c1590-1667): Sonata La Augustanabd [3]; Sonata La Hieronymaabcd [3]; Giovanni Paolo Cima (c1570-c1622): Quam pulchra esabd [1]; Marco Antonio Ferro (?-1662): Sonata Vabcd [7]; Giovanni Battista Fontana (1589?-1630: Sonata Iad [5]; Herman Hollanders (c1600-1650): Recipe meabd [4]; Transfige, dulcissime Jesuabcd [4]; Johann Michael Nicolai (1629-1685): Sonata in Dabd; Cornelis Thysmanszoon Padbrué (c1592-1670): Symphonia Nuptiasabcd; Francesco Rognoni (c1585-c1624): Pulchra es amica mea (after Da Palestrina)bd [2]; Johann Rosenmüller (1619-1694): Sonata IIIacd [10]; Bartolomeo de Selma y Salaverde (1595-1638): Canzone Est-ce Marsabcd; Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621): Est-ce Marsd

(Sources: [1] GP Cima, Concerti Ecclesiastici, 1610; [2] F Rognoni, Selva de varii passaggi, 1620; [3] GM Cesare, Musicali melodie per voci e instrumenti, 1621; [4] H Hollanders, Parnassus Ecclesiasticus, 1631; [5] GB Fontana, Sonata a 1,2,3 per violino, o cornetto, fagotto ..., 1641; [6] GA Bertoli, Compositioni Musicali, 1645; [7] MA Ferro, Sonate a due, tre & quattro, op. 1, 1649; [8] PhF Böddecker, Sacra Partitura, 1651; [9] PhF Buchner, Plectrum Musicum, 1662; [10] J Rosenmüller, Sonate, 1682)

Fiona Russella, cornett, muted cornett; Adam Woolfb, alto & tenor trombone; Wouter Verschuerenc, dulcian; Kathryn Cokd, harpsichord, organ

This disc is devoted to instrumental music from the decades around 1600. The booklet says: "These compositions can be roughly categorized into three genres that existed alongside each other: vocal polyphony, diminutions based on vocal music, and instrumental music. The three wind instruments: cornetto, trombone, and dulcian, alongside the organ, were often used in the 16th century as additional support or as replacements for voices in vocal polyphonic music." But strangely enough the three tracks which the writers refer to contain pieces from the 17th century, when the practice of performing vocal music instrumentally was far less common than in the 16th century, in particular because at that time there was a large and fast growing amount of specifically instrumental - often much more virtuosic - music available.

The combination of instruments is not heard very often. And both trombone and dulcian are seldom playing solo pieces, in particular compositions as virtuosic as some of the works played on this disc. Only in some cases the instrumentation used here is specifically indicated by the composer. As often in the 17th century the choice of the instruments was left to the performer. In many cases the upper part can be played either on violin or cornett or recorder. And as far as the lower parts are concerned, the trombone, dulcian and bass viol are often interchangeable. Sometimes an alternative is given, like in the sonata by Johann Michael Nicolai, which can be played either on bass viol or on trombone. But there are pieces where the composer has specifically indicated the instrument (which doesn't absolutely exclude any alternative), like Philipp Friedrich Böddecker, whose Sonata La Monica was specifically intended for the dulcian - no surprise, as he himself was active as a player of that instrument. And Fontana's Sonata I is the only sonata from a collection of sonatas for cornett or violin where the cornett is indicated as the first choice.

The composers represented in the programme are from a number of European countries. Most of them are from Italy, where the development of independent instrumental music started, and where composers were keen to compose pieces which required great virtuosity from the performers. Those developments were imitated in other countries, in particular in Germany. The three pieces which close the programme are by composers of the Netherlands, where it took a while before the new style of composing gained a foothold. In particular in the northern part of the Netherlands where musical life concentrated on playing at home, the first collection of music with basso continuo was published as late as 1631. In the first half of the 17th century most of the repertoire, both native and foreign, was still music written in the style of the renaissance. The piece by Padbrué is an example, as it consists of a pavan and a galliard, a pairing which is characteristic of the renaissance - but it was written as late as 1642!

I received this disc just before the Holland Festival Early Music Utrecht 2006 started, where this ensemble gave a lunchtime concert. They were joined there by the violinist Anabella Ferdinand, and played a programme comparable with the music on this disc. I greatly enjoyed their concert, and my impressions are confirmed by this disc. Not only is the choice of music variable and creative, the music making is of the highest standard. Cornett, trombone and dulcian are all pretty difficult instruments to play, and one can only admire the technical skills of the respective members of the Caecilia-Concert. Kathryn Cok gives excellent support with her imaginative realisation of the basso continuo part. Her solo contributions are also first rate. Wouter Verschueren and Kathryn Cok provide the listener with informative programme notes in the booklet. I had liked to have an indication of which instruments play in which piece. But that is only a minor issue.

I strongly recommend this recital of excellent and often exciting music, brilliantly played by an ensemble which I am sure we will hear a lot more from in the future.

Johan van Veen (© 2006)

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