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"Paradiso Armonico"

Constanze Backesa, soprano
More Maiorum
Dir.: Peter Van Heyghen
rec: 2 - 4 May, 2005, Sint-Truiden (Be), Akademiezaal
Et'cetera - KTC 4012(© 2005) (68'32")

Giovanni Battista Buonamente (?-1642): Sonata IV; Gasparo Casati (c1610-1641): O bone Iesua; Dario Castello (1st half 17th c): Sonata I; Sonata VIII; Maurizio Cazzati (1616-1678): Ave maris stellaa; Plaudite gaudete, motetto per un Sanctoa; Sonata III La Bulgarina; Jacob van Eyck (1589/90-1687): Preludium of Voorspel; Questa dolce sirena; Giovanni Giacomo Gastoldi (c1554-1609): La Sirena; Alessandro Grandi (1586-1630): Virgo prudentissimaa; Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687): Deh, s'ą tanta beltą; Orsa bella e crudele; Va, donna ingrata; Nicolaes a Kempis (c1600-1676): Symphonia II; Symphonia V; Tarquinio Merula (1594/5-1664): Cantate, iubilatea; Chiacona; Francesco Rasi (1574-1621): Hor ch'ai noi rimena; Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621): Allemand; Marco Uccellini (c1603-1680): Aria XIII sopra Questa bella sirena; Philippus van Wichel (1614-1675): Sonata VI a 3

(Sources: GG Gastoldi, Balletti a 5 voci, 1591; F Rasi, Vaghezze di musica, 1608; T Merula, Il primo libro de motetti, op. 6, 1624; D Castello, Sonate concertate, libro II, 1629; GB Buonamente, Sonate, et canzoni, libro VI, 1636; T Merula, Canzoni, overo sonate concertate, op. 12, 1637; A Grandi, Motetti a una, et due voci, libro III, 1639; J van Eyck, Euterpe oft Speel-Godinne, 1644; GG Gastoldi, Sonate corrente et arie, op. 4, 1645; J van Eyck, Derv Fluyten Lust-hof, tweede deel, 1646; G Casati, Operis primi pars prior, continens moteta, 1647; C Huygens, Pathodia sacra et profana, 1647; N a Kempis, Symphoniae, op. 2 liber I, 1647; M Cazzati, Motetti e hymni, op. 16, 1655; Suonate a due violini, op. 18, 1656; Ph van Wichel, Fasciculus dulcedinis, op. 1, 1678)

Peter Van Heyghen, recorder; Annette Sichelschmidt, violin; Marc Vanscheewijck, bass violin; Jan Van Outryve, archlute; Kris Verhelst, harpsichord

The decades around 1600 were a period of great change in musical taste and style in Italy. The development of independent and often virtuosic instrumental music, the use of the basso continuo and the shift from polyphony to monody changed the musical landscape in Italy completely. Soon it gained firm foothold elsewhere in Europe, in particular in Austria, Germany, Poland and Bohemia. In other countries, though, it took a while before the Italian style was embraced. The best example is England, where the music of the first half of the 17th century was still firmly rooted in the prima prattica. Another example is the Netherlands: the first music with basso continuo was printed in 1613 in the southern part of the Netherlands and only in 1631 in the northern part. In particular here music was mostly performed at the homes of aristocrats or in the collegia musica in the larger cities. Well into the 17th century the repertoire was still mostly music in the style of the 16th century. During the first half of the century collections of Italian music were printed, in particular in Antwerp, which had a long tradition of music printing. Gastoldi's Balletti of 1591 were printed in Antwerp as late as 1628!

The ensemble More Maiorum has selected some pieces which are representative of the music played in the Netherlands. Apart from some of the famous Italian masters the programme contains music by some composers of the Netherlands, which show great differences. Jacob van Eyck, for instance, the blind recorder player and carilloneur, was hardly influenced by Italian music, not only in his style of composing but also in the choice of the tunes on which he wrote variations. The playwright and politician Constantijn Huygens, on the other hand, was much more attracted to the Italian monodic style, as his Pathodia sacra et profana, a collection of Latin sacred monodies, and secular Italian arie and French airs, shows.

The performance is also based on what was common practice in the Netherlands. One of the features of musical life was the important role of the recorder, in particular the soprano recorder. And therefore a number of pieces with two upper parts are played here on recorder and violin, whereas in Italy they would more likely be performed by two violins or cornetts. And it is rather unlikely that a sacred concerto like Cazzati's Plaudite gaudete would be performed in Italy with recorder and violin as it is here.

Although the booklet doesn't specifically says so I assume most Italian pieces are played from the publications in the Netherlands, in case they are available. Dario Castello's Sonate concertate were printed in Antwerp in 1656, almost 30 years after its first appearance in Venice. The fact that 'modern' Italian music was growing in popularity during the second quarter of the 17th century is reflected by the publication of the two collections by Cazzati: the editions printed in Antwerp date from just one year after their publication in Venice and Bologna respectively.

The ensemble Mare Maiorum delivers fine performances here. They are indeed interpreting this music from the perspective of the most likely way this music was played in the Netherlands, which means, for instance, that the addition of ornamentation is less abundant and virtuosic than Italians were used to. There is also a certain modesty in the way Constanze Backes sings the vocal items, which she does very well.

And the disc has been intelligently put together: there is plenty of variety in the character of the pieces and their scoring to keep the listener's attention. The booklet contains informative programme notes by Peter Van Heyghen in Dutch, English, French and German as well as a list of the sources from which the compositions are taken and a list of the instruments used. It is a shame the vocal items are only printed in the original language, without any translation. And I also whished the tracklist had been printed in the booklet and not only - in very small print - on the back of the case.

Johan van Veen (© 2006)

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