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Maurizio CAZZATI & Carlo Donato COSSONI: "Music in Bologna around 1660"

Ensemble Philomèle

rec: August 2016, Guebwiler (F), Abbaye des Dominicains de Haute-Alsace
Claves - 50-1820 (© 2018) (65'31")
Liner-notes: E/F/I; lyrics - translations: E/F
Cover & track-list
Scores Cazzati

Maurizio CAZZATI (1616-1678): Amante che mirato [4]; Amor bugiardo (Non vi fidate) [1]; L'amante musico [3]; Lodasi il tacere (Se parlate o se tacete) [4]; Peccator penitente (O mie luci dolenti) [5]; Sonata La Bulgarina [2]; Sonata La Calcagnina [2]; Sonata La Martinenga [2]; Carlo Donato COSSONI (1623-1700): Crudelis Herodes [6]; Ecce Jesu mi [8]; Fino all'ultimo respiro [7]; Mesto amatore [7]; Occhi belli [7]; Salve Regina [6]; Suspirat in dolore [9]

Sources: Maurizio Cazzati, [1] Arie e cantate a voce sola, op. 11, 1649; [2] Sonate a due violini e basso continuo, op. 18, 1656; [3] Il quarto libro delle canzonette, op. 43, 1667; [4] Il quinto libro delle canzonette, op. 46, 1668; [5] Diporti spirituali, op. 49, 1668; Carlo Donato Cossoni, [6] Inni a voce sola, op. 4, 1668; [7] Il primo libro delle canzonette amorose, op. 7, 1669; [8] Il secondo libro de motetti a voce sola, op. 10, 1670; [9] Il terzo libro de motetti a voce sola, op. 12, 1675

Alice Borciani, soprano; Marie Schneider, Liselotte Emery, recorder, cornett; Clémence Schaming, violin; Julie Dessaint, viola da gamba; Étienne Galletier, theorbo, guitar; Gwennaëlle Alibert, harpsichord, organ

Throughout history, Bologna has been one of the main musical centres of Italy, but in the 17th century it experienced a kind of 'golden age'. Today probably only a few will be able to mention any composers connected to Bologna, as those from Venice and Naples receive more attention. However, Bologna played a crucial role in the development of several genres, such as the concerto grosso and the solo concerto as well as music for trumpet and for cello. One of its most prestigious establishments was the Accademia Filarmonica di Bologna, founded in 1666. In the course of its existence, it had many of the main composers of the time among its members. Maurizio Cazzati was not one of them, despite the fact that he occupied one of the most important positions, that of maestro di cappella of the San Petronio basilica. That was the effect of the controversy which his appoinment caused.

Cazzati was born in Luzzara (today Lucera), near Reggio nell'Emilia, part of the duchy of Guastalla. Here he was appointed as organist at S Pietro at the age of 17. He was ordained a priest and then acted as maestro di cappella in several cities: Mantua, Ferrara and Bergamo. In 1657 he moved to Bologna where he became maestro di cappella of San Petronio. Only two years after that he became the subject of controversy, caused by one of his masses that - according to his critics - included serious errors. It divided the entire community. Although he initially enjoyed the support of the vestry board of S Petronio, he was dismissed in 1671 and returned to Mantua. Here he acted as maestro di cappella at the Cathedral and maestro di cappella di camera to Duchess Anna Isabella Gonzaga until his death in 1678.

The main reason that some influential colleagues did want to see him leaving Bologna, was his reform of the chapel of the basilica. In its old line-up, it was perfectly suited to perform the music written during the first half of the 17th century: sacred concertos for multiple voices with winds playing colla voce. Reducing the number of singers marked a shift from the concerto to the motet for solo voice(s). Through the introduction of strings, instrumental music was given a more prominent role in the liturgy. It allowed Cazzati to perform music for trumpet and strings, and thus he laid the foudation of a genre which was to become very important in the second half of the century, and made Bologna a centre of playing of and composing for this instrument.

Cazzati has left a large oeuvre; he contributed to every genre in vogue in his time. It is notable that he took the printing of his music into his own hands: during his time in Bologna he had a printing press in his official residence. He continued his activities in this field in Mantua. A look at his oeuvre reveals that he was ahead of his time in several respects. He was the first to compose sonatas for solo violin and basso continuo. He was also one of the first to publish trio sonatas (op. 18). A striking feature of his sonatas is that they consist of clearly separated movements. His vocal music also includes a modern trait: the use of something like a recitative, not comparable with what was to become the standard towards the end of the century, but certainly different from more lyrical episodes. An example is the motet Peccator penitente. At the same time, his oeuvre includes some reminiscences of the past. That concerns especially his canzonettas, which are comparable to the (Neapolitan) villanellas which were so popular in the first half of the century.

The same kind of secular music was written by Cazzati's colleague, Carlo Donato Cossoni. Today, Cazzati is one of the lesser-known Italian composers of the 17th century, but Cossoni is a complete unknown quantity. He has an entry in New Grove, but it comprises only ten lines. This does not reflect the size of his oeuvre, which includes fifteen opus numbers and a considerable amount of music preserved in manuscript.

He was from Gravedona (near Lake Como), where he also died. He was ordained a priest and took his first musical positions in Como. From 1662 to 1670, he was active as organist of San Petronio in Bologna. He was one of the founders of the Accademia Filarmonica. In 1670 he moved to Milan, where in 1684 he took the position of choirmaster at the cathedral. Most of his printed music was written during his time in Bologna. Stylistically, the two composers included in this production have quite something in common, and therefore bringing them together makes much sense.

For instance, like Cazzati's motet I mentioned above, Cossoni's setting of the Salve Regina includes passages of a recitativic character. The same goes for his motet Ecce Jesu mi. Notable is the text illustration at the end of the third section of Suspirat in dolore: "Go away in flight, recede, go". His canzonettas are not fundamentally different from Cazzati's, and are mostly of a rather light-hearted nature.

These pieces come off best in Alice Borciani's performance. She has a nice, rather light and agile voice, and she captures the spirit of these pieces very well. She is generally convincing in the sacred pieces as well, but here I would have liked a little more colouring of the voice and stronger dynamic shading. I feel that more could have been made of some of them.

However, overall I am quite happy with this disc. Recently other recordings of music by Cazzati have been released, and this disc bears witness to the growing interest in his oeuvre. It is always nice when a new name appears on a programme of a concert or CD, and Cossoni seems a composer, who deserves a closer examination. This disc has made me curious about other parts of his oeuvre. This is also the first time I have heard the Ensemble Philomèle, and I am happy with the acquaintance. It is a fine ensemble, and the instrumentalists deliver excellent performances of the sonatas. I hope to hear more from them.

Johan van Veen (© 2020)

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