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"Alla Polacca - Polish influences in baroque music"

Ensemble Giardino di Delizie
Dir: Ewa Anna Augustynowicz

rec: Sept 27 - 30, 2021, Città della Pieve (PG), Comunità di Etica Vivente (Aula della Cultura)
Da Vinci Classics - C00551 (© 2022) (65'07")
Liner-notes: E/PL
Cover, track-list & liner-notes

Carlo FARINA (1600-1639): Sonata I à 3 detta La Polaca [2]; Adam JARZĘBSKI (1590-1648): Concerto à 3 'Bentrovata' [3]; Concerto à 3 'Sentinella' [3]; Johann Valentin MEDER (1649-1719): Sonata à 5 'Der Polnische Pracher'; Tarquinio MERULA (c1595-1665): Canzona à 2 violini 'La Polachina' [4]; Marcin MIELCZEWSKI (1600-1651): Canzona I à 3; Canzona III à 3; Giovanni PICCHI (1572-1643): Ballo alla Polacha [1]; Johann Heinrich SCHMELZER (1620-1680): Polnische Sackpfeiffen à 2 violini; Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767): Concerto alla Polonese in G (TWV 43,G7); Sonata Polonese à 3 in A (TWV 42,A8)

Sources: [1] Giovanni Picchi, Intavolatura di balli, 1621/R; [2] Carlo Farina, Libro delle Pavane, Gagliarde, Brand: Mascharata, Aria Franzesa, Volte, Balletti, Sonate, Canzone. à 2. 3. 4. Voce, con il Basso per sonare, 1626; [3] Adam Jarzębski, Canzoni e concerti, 1627; [4] Tarquinio Merula, Canzoni overo sonate concertate per chiesa e camera a due et a tre (...) libro terzo, op. 12, 1637

Ewa Anna Augustynowicz, Katarzyna Solecka, violin; Svetlana Fomina, violin, viola; Agnieszka Oszańca, cello; Giorgia Zanin, theorbo, baroque guitar; Elisabetta Ferri, harpsichord, organ
with: Anna Skorupska, viola

Poland enjoys a lively music scene. Part of it are quite a number of festivals, several of which are devoted to early music. In this field, several Polish ensembles are active, some of which have gained an international reputation. Fortunately, they don't forget their own musical heritage, and as a result of this quite some recordings of Polish music from the Renaissance to the romantic period in performances on period instruments have been released during the last ten to fifteen years. One of the ensembles is the Ensemble Giardino di Delizie, which devotes itself to instrumental music of the 17th and early 18th centuries. It has recorded Italian music, but it pays special attention to the connection between the Polish music scene of the baroque period and the Italian style. In 2020 Brilliant Classics released its recording of "Gems of the Polish Baroque", which includes music by Polish composers and a German composer, Kaspar Förster, who worked in Danzig, which was then German, and is now the Polish town Gdańsk. The present disc could probably be considered a kind of sequel, as here we get music by composers who in one way or another had a connection to what today is Poland.

Again, the Italian style is prominently represented, especially in the pieces from the 17th century. That is inevitable, as the Italian style conquered a large part of Europe since the early 17th century. One way the style disseminated is through Italian composers who crossed the Alps and looked for employment in northern Europe, such as Germany and Poland. One of them was Carlo Farina, who for some years worked at the court in Dresden and laid the foundation of what was to become the German violin school. His five books with music for strings, that were published in Dresden from 1626 to 1628, were highly influential. In the late 1620s he returned to Italy, but in 1636 he again travelled north, and worked for a couple of years in Danzig. That justifies the inclusion of one of his sonatas. The title of the Sonata I performed here, is one of several pieces by non-Polish composers that refers to Poland, and contains Polish dance rhythms.

Another Italian composer who made his way to Poland was Tarquinio Merula, who had been educated as a violinist and organist, and who has left a substantial oeuvre of sacred and secular vocal music as well as instrumental works. From 1621 to 1626 he worked as organist to King Sigismund III in Warsaw. The canzona included here, called 'La Polachina', is taken from his Op. 12, which was printed in Venice in 1637, well after his departure from Poland. According to the liner-notes, it includes some traces of traditional Polish music.

The third Italian composer in the programme is Giovanni Picchi, a keyboard player and composer from Venice, who has become almost exclusively known for his small oeuvre of keyboard works, but also published a collection of instrumental canzonas (recorded a few years ago by Concerto Scirocco. The title of one of his keyboard works shows the dissemination of references to Poland, which may well be due to the influence of Italian composers having worked in Poland. Whether such pieces have any musical connection to Polish music, is an entirely different matter.

Adam Jarzębski and Marcin Mielczewski were two of the most important Polish composers in the first half of the 17th century. Jarzębski worked first in Berlin, where his employer allowed him to travel to Italy, where he became acquainted with the latest developments in music. After his return he became a member of the royal chapel in Warsaw. The two concertos included here show the strong Italian influence in his oeuvre. As far as we know Mielczewski was never in Italy, but he was a pupil of Frantiszek Lilius, who was a pupil of Girolamo Frescobaldi. Through him he may have learnt the Italian style, and the canzona performed here attests to its influence. He first worked as a member of the royal chapel in Warsaw, but from 1645 until his death he was in the service of Karol Ferdynand Vaza, bishop of Plock and brother of King Władysław IV.

Descriptive music was very popular in the 17th century. Farina set the tone with his Capriccio stravagante, and the two pieces by Meder and Schmelzer respectively also belong among that genre. Whether Meder's piece has a complimentary tenor, is questionable: literally the title means 'the Polish beggar'. Interestingly, the liner-notes mention that it is suggested that this piece includes influences of klezmer music. Schmelzer's Polnische Sackpfeifen may well refer to Polish players of traditional music travelling around in central Europe.

The latest pieces are by Georg Philipp Telemann, who early in his career made acquaintance with traditional music from Poland. It had a major influence on his development as a composer. In many compositions he included allusions to traditional music from Poland and other regions, often implicitly, sometimes explicitly, as in the two pieces performed here.

With the exception of Schmelzer, these two pieces are also the best-known items in this programme, which offers a compelling view of globalism in European music of the baroque era. Composers were keen to embrace new things and to include elements of music from other parts of the continent into their compositions. The disc of the Ensemble Giardino di Delizie I have referred to above was a great success, and this one is just as convincing. The programme is put together in an intelligent and musically meaningful way, and is given splendid performances. Elemental features of any performance of this kind of repertoire are a good articulation, resulting in a speechlike delivery, a marked dynamic differentiation and an exploration of the contrasts between the sections of pieces that are mostly written in the stylus phantasticus. On all counts the ensemble succeeds with flying colours.

Johan van Veen (© 2024)

Relevant links:

Ensemble Giardino di Delizie

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