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Italian flute sonatas

[I] "Italian Flute Music of the Early 18th Century"
Enrico Casularo, transverse flute; Andrea Coen, harpsichord
rec: June 22 - 25, 2018, Nepi, Chiesa di San Biagio
Da Vinci Classics - C00302 (© 2020) (60'14")
Liner-notes: E
Cover, track-list & liner-notes

Pietro Giuseppe Gaetano BONI (1686-1741): Sonata II in e minor [2]; Signor BRIVIO (Giuseppe Ferdinando BRIVIO?, 1758?): Sonata in D [6]; Pietro CHABOUD (?-after 1723): Sonata V in G (after ?Pietro Castrucci, 1679-1752) [3]; Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713), arr anon: Sonata in G (after Sonata in F, op. 5,10) [1]; Carlo TESSARINI (1690-after 1766): Sonata in G, op. 2,4 [4]; Roberto VALENTINI (Robert VALENTINE) (c1673-1747): Sonata in e minor, op. 12,5 [5]

Sources: [1] Six Solos for a Flute and a Bass, The second part of his Fifth Opera, The whole exactely Transpos’d and made fitt for a flute and a Bass with the aprobation of severall Eminent Masters, c1701; [2] Pietro Giuseppe Gaetano Boni, Divertimenti per camera a violino, violone, cimbalo, flauto, e basso o per mandola e basso, 1717; [3] Six Solos for a german flute a hoboy or violin with a thorough bass for the harpsicord or bass violin being all choice pieces by the greatest authors and fitted to the german flute by Sig.r Pietro Chaboud, 1723-25; [4] Carlo Tessarini, XII Sonate per flauto traversie e basso continuo, op. 2, ?1729; [5] Roberto Valentini, Sonate per il flauto traversiero col basso, op. 12, 1730; [6] Six Solos four for a german flute and a bass and two for a violin with a thorough bass for the harpsichord, 1730

[II] Nicola Francesco HAYM (1678-1729): "Flute Music"
Cappella Musicale Enrico Stuart
rec: August 25 - 31, 2020, Monte Compatri, Palazzo Annibaldeschi
Brilliant Classics - 96167 (© 2022) (65'31")
Liner-notes: E
Cover & track-list
Scores Sonate da camera

Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713): Sonata in D (after Sonata in C, op. 5,3); Sonata in G, op. 2,12a; Nicola Francesco HAYM: Sonata for transverse flute and bc No. 1 in c minor [2]; Sonata for transverse flute and bc No. 2 in d minor [2]; Sonata for transverse flute and bc No. 3 in c minor [2]; Sonata for transverse flute and bc No. 4 in a minor [2]; Sonata for 2 recorders and bc in g minor, op. 2,6 [1]; Sonata for 2 recorders and bc in C, op. 2,7 [1]; Sonata for 2 recorders and bc in F, op. 2,8 [1]; Sonata for 2 recorders and bc in e minor, op. 2,9 [1]; Sonata for 2 recorders and bc in G, op. 2,12 [1]

Sources: [1] Nicola Francesco Haym, Sonate a tre, op. 2, 1704; [2] Nicola Francesco Haym/Martino Bitti, VI Sonate da Camera a Flauto traversa, Haubois, o Violino solo, 1710

Chiara Strabioli, recorder, transverse flute; Romeo Ciuffa, recorder, transverse flutea; Rebecca Ferri, cello; Marco Vitale, harpsichord

It is often stated - as I have done so in previous reviews - that the transverse flute made a relatively late appearance at the Italian music scene, at least later than in other parts of Europe. There seem to be reasons to revise that view, and the two discs under review here illustrate that some Italian composers were attracted to this relatively new instrument, coming from France, from early on. Rome seems to have been the centre of composing for and playing the transverse flute: Enrico Casularo's disc is entirely devoted to composers who worked in Rome, and Francesco Haym, to whom the Cappella Musicale Enrico Stuart devoted an entire disc, was also from Rome, but worked for most of his life in London. A substantial part of the music that Casularo recorded, was also printed there. That is no surprise, given that London was one of the main European centres of music printing.

However, there are two issues here. First, it is not always entirely clear whether music was intended for the recorder or the transverse flute. The terminology is often rather confusing. For instance, considering that the transverse flute was often called 'German flute' in England, one may wonder whether collections of 'flute sonatas', without the addition of 'German', are in fact intended for the recorder, which was the most popular of the two among amateurs for several decades in the early 18th century, especially in England. And that leads to the second issue: as I wrote above, most collections were printed in England. It is not always clear whether the source was Italian or rather English. That goes for the first item in the programme. Casularo starts with one of Arcangelo Corelli's violin sonatas in a transcription "for a Flute and a Bass". It is part of a collection of sonatas by 'eminent masters', who are not mentioned by name. The Sonata X from Corelli's Op. 5 is transposed from F to G; this way the lowest notes stay within the range of the flute. This sonata has been recorded on the recorder by, among others, Maurice Steger (Claves, 1998).

Next in the programme is Pietro Giuseppe Gaetano Boni, about whom not much is known. He was from Bologna, where he studied and later was included in the Accademia Filarmonica. He may have been a pupil of Corelli; in Rome he published a collection of Divertimenti da camera, whose melody part is scored for violin, with flute and mandolin mentioned as alternatives. Six of the twelve divertimenti were later reprinted by Walsh and Hare in London; this edition mentions the 'German flute', as the transverse flute was often called, as the instrument for which they are intended. This is confirmed by the transposition of the Sonata II from the original key of F minor to E minor, which is more appropriate for the flute.

The track-list mentions Pietro Chaboud as the composer of the Sonata in G, the third piece in the programme. That is not correct: the sonata is taken from a collection of pieces by various composers (not mentioned), published by Walsh in London in 1723-25. The title-page says that these sonatas were "fitted to the German flute" by Chaboud, which makes him the arranger rather than the composer. Chaboud has no entry in New Grove and little is known about him, but he may well have been from Bologna. His presence in London between 1702 and 1718 is documented. The sonata performed here may be from the pen of Pietro Castrucci.

Quite a number of Italian composers settled in Paris or in London in order to find employment. Roberto Valentini moved in the opposite direction. He was born in Leicester and baptized as Robert Valentine and settled in Rome in the late 1690s. New Grove mentions that he was educated at the recorder and the oboe, but in Italy he was mainly active as a violinist. However, there are also documents in which he is mentioned as a cellist. This suggests that he was, like many of his contemporaries, a 'multi-instrumentalist' - this was a phenomenon known from the 17th century, which was to change gradually during the 18th century, when more and more players focused on one particular instrument. That he was also playing the oboe professionally is documented by his participation as such in the performance of Handel's oratorio La Resurrezione in Rome in 1707. In 1730 he published a collection of sonatas for the transverse flute as his Op. 12. This was the first set of flute sonatas published in Italy. One may be inclined to see this as a confirmation of the marginal role of the flute in Italy in the previous decades, but it probably says more about the state of music printing in Rome in comparison with London (and Amsterdam and Paris).

Carlo Tessarini was one of several Italian violin virtuosos who made their appearance in several places across Europe. He was an almost exact contemporary of Pietro Antonio Locatelli (1695-1764) and there are quite some similarities between the two. Both worked in various places in Italy, then went abroad and lived for several years in the Netherlands. Locatelli died in Amsterdam, and that probably goes for Tessarini as well, although there is no evidence of that. The last sign of his existence dates from 15 December 1766, when he gave a concert at the Collegium Musicum in Arnhem, a town in the east of the Netherlands. Another similarity between the two composers is that they were also active as music publishers. Tessarini printed not only his own works but also those of other composers. To further complete the picture, both Locatelli and Tessarini gave private concerts of their own works, Locatelli in Amsterdam, Tessarini in London where he lived and worked between 1747 and 1750. The Sonata in G performed by Enrico Casularo is taken from his Op. 2, which was printed in Amsterdam in 1729 with the title of XII Sonate per flauto traversie e basso continuo.

The disc ends with a Sonata in D by a certain Signor Brivio, which may be identical with Giuseppe Ferdinando Brivio, a violinist, composer and singing teacher who is thought to have been in London from 1742 to 1745. The sonata is taken from an anthology of four flute sonatas and two violin sonatas of 1730, which also includes pieces by Handel, Geminiani and Somis.

This recording not only documents the developments in flute playing in Italy, but also the development in style, gradually moving away from the Corellian model into the direction of a more galant idiom. That comes off well in Casularo's recording, whose playing is engaging and differentiated in choice of tempi and dynamic shading. Andrea Coen's harpsichord is a bit too much in the background.

The second disc is devoted to Nicola Francesco Haym, who was born in Rome into a German-Jewish family. He was educated as a cellist and in this capacity he played on an irregular basis at the court of Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni in Rome. The Cardinal commissioned Haym's two only known oratorios which date from 1699 and 1700 respectively. He may also have played at a theatre which brought him in contact with a genre which would play a major role in his career in England. There he arrived in 1701 in the company of a violinist from Rome who had been invited to England by Wriothesley Russell, 2nd Duke of Bedford. Haym became the Duke's master of chamber music. In 1703 and 1704 he published two sets of trio sonatas and a collection of chamber cantatas.

When Italian operas were started to be performed in London, Haym acted as cellist in the basso continuo section and also as manager of his wife, who was a professional singer. Soon he began to adapt Italian operas, for instance Bononcini's Camilla; these were very successful. This must have encouraged him to concentrate on the adaptation and writing of librettos. He wrote the librettos for several of Handel's most famous operas, such as Giulio Cesare, Rodelinda and Ottone. These were performed between 1722 and 1728; at that time Haym didn't have the time to participate in the performances as a cellist as he was too busy in the capacity of Secretary of the Royal Academy of Music. In this position it was his task to act as stage manager of all the productions.

His activities in the field of opera have almost completely overshadowed his own compositional oeuvre. A part of his output has been lost and nothing of his extant vocal music, either secular or sacred, seems to be available on disc. Haym also left some instrumental music; New Grove lists two sets of trio sonatas, a sonata for two transverse flutes without accompaniment, included in an anthology of Italian and English music (only one of the two parts has survived), and four sonatas for a melody instrument (flute, oboe or violin) and basso continuo in an anthology of six such sonatas. The ensemble L'Aura Rilucente recorded three of the trio sonatas from the Op. 1 (Ambronay, 2015). It is a matter of good luck that the Cappella Musicale Enrico Stuart focuses on the other two collections.

All Haym's sonatas were published in Amsterdam and London, but reflect the Italian style in vogue in Rome around 1700. Arcangelo Corelli was then the dominant personality in music life there, and his influence reached far beyond the borders of the city and even Italy at large. In particular in England his music was very popular, and after the piblication of his sonatas Op. 5, the country fell victim to a real Corellimania. Haym was one of several composers who edited Corelli's sonatas; his edition was published in 1705.

The twelve trio sonatas Op. 2 are intended for different combinations of instruments. Five are for two violins, and two for violin and cello; these have been omitted here. The performers selected those sonatas which are intended for two violins or two flauti; at the time of publication, the word flauto still refers to the recorder. The collection ends, as was so often the case in editions of trio sonatas, with a sonata in a single movement, based on a basso ostinato; here it is called Partite di Ciacona. The four sonatas from the set of six are intended for the transverse flute.

These pieces are rather short; the longest movement takes a little over three minutes, but most movements remain under two minutes. However, they are well-written and very nice to listen to. They are well worth being performed and recorded, and they seem to me valuable contributions to the repertoire. We get very fine performances here; I rated two previous recordings by the Cappella Musicale Enrico Stuart positively, and that is not any different this time. The fast movements receive lively accounts, and the slow movements are realized with sensitivity. The two recorders blend beautifully. This recording is the best possible way to bring unknown repertoire to the attention of the music world.

The disc ends with a sonata from Corelli's Op. 5, adapted to the flute with a transposition to a different key, and the closing sonata from Corelli's Op. 2, which - like the last sonata from Haym's Op. 2 - is a ciaccona, "with extemporaneous adjustments by the performers". The liner-notes don't make entirely clear who is responsible for the transposition and adaptation of the sonata from Corelli's Op. 5. The track-list refers to a title in French, which suggests that it is taken from an edition of Corelli's time, but that is not specified.

Johan van Veen (© 2023)

Relevant links:

Enrico Casularo
Cappella Musicale Enrico Stuart

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