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Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583 - 1643): Organ Works

[I] "Ricercari (1615)"
Liuwe Tamminga, organ

rec: Feb 2010, Bologna, Basilica di San Petronio
Passacaille - 966 ( 2010) (69'56")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover & tracklist

Aria detto Balletto [3]; Canzona I [3]; Canzona II [3]; Canzona III [3]; Capriccio del soggetto [Fra' Jacopino] scritto sopra l'Aria di Ruggiero [2]; Capriccio fatto sopra la Pastorale [2]; Recercar I [1]; Recercar II [1]; Recercar III [1]; Recercar IV sopra mi, re, fa, mi [1]; Recercar V [1]; Recercar VI sopra fa, fa, sol, la, fa [1]; Recercar VII sopra sol, mi, fa, la, sol [1]; Recercar VIII, obligo di non uscir di grado [1]; Recercar IX, con quattro soggetti [1]; Recercar X sopra la, fa, sol, la, re [1]; Toccata VI

[II] Fiori Musicali
Maurizio Croci, organ
Ensemble Stirps Jesse (Enrico De Capitani)

rec: May 1 - 2, 2009, Bern, Dreifaltigkeitsbasilika
Stradivarius - Str 33896 ( 2011) (80'08")
Liner-notes: E/F/I
Cover & tracklist

Messa degli Apostoli [4]; Messa della Domenica [4]; Messa della Madonna [4]

[Ens Stirps Jesse] Paolo Borgonovo, Enrico De Capitani, Giorgio Merli, Marco, Radaelli, Filippo Tuccimei

Sources: [1] Recercari, et canzoni franzese fatte sopra diverse oblighi in partitura libro primo, 1615; [2] Toccate e partite d'intavolatura di cimbalo libro primo, 1615; [3] Il secondo libro di toccate, canzone ... partite d'intavolatura di cembalo et organo, 1627; [4] Fiori musicali di diverse compositioni, toccate, kyrie, canzoni, capricci, e recercari, in partitura, 1635

These two discs present music from two different stages in Frescobaldi's career, and with a different character.

In 1608 Frescobaldi published his first collection of keyboard music, the Primo Libro delle Fantasie. These fantasias are dominated by the subjects on which they are based, without any free counterpoint. That is different in his second collection, the Rercercari, et Canzoni franzese fatte sopra diversi oblighi in partitura, which appeared in 1615. In his liner-notes Marc Vanscheeuwijck refers to the various traditions which influenced Frescobaldi and which are reflected in this collection.

The Recercari I and IX follow a tradition which had been established in Naples. The themes are presented at the start and then worked out, without a clear division in sections. The Recercari II, III and V are divided into three sections each of which begins with its own theme. Four Recercari are based on four or five notes; those of Recercar VI in fact represent the beginning of the song Fra Jacopino. The Recercar VIII has a specific character which is referred to in its title: obligo di non uscir mai di grado. This means that it avoids seconds; all intervals are thirds or larger.

This collection also contains five Canzoni which for inexplicable reasons are not recorded here. Instead we get pieces from some other collections. The Toccata VI which opens this disc is from a manuscript in Turin - the liner-notes don't give any details about it - whereas the three Canzoni and the Aria detto Balletto are from the Secondo Libro di Toccata, Canzoni, Versi d'Hinni, Magnificat of 1627. Here we find again the influence of the Neapolitan school - in particular Trabaci - with two subjects worked out in various sections. The Capricci are from the first book of toccatas and partitas of 1615. One is based on the Ruggiero theme which Frescobaldi used several times; the same collection includes a series of partite on the same subject. The Capriccio fatto sopra la Pastorale is from that same book.

Liuwe Tamminga is a specialist in early Italian organ music. His discography is impressive and includes pieces by the main Italian keyboard composers of the 16th and 17th centuries. He always uses historical instruments, and as one of the organists of the Basilica San Petronio in Bologna he has two magnificent organs at his disposal, built in 1471-75/1531 and in 1596 respectively. The disposition and the mean-tone temperament lend these performances a great amount of authenticity. The acoustical circumstances are also characteristic for the kind of spaces where Frescobaldi's music was performed, even though the reverberation of this particular cathedral is quite extreme. The playing of Tamminga and the recording technique make sure all lines are easy to follow. The fact that sometimes the noise of the keys is audible is not disturbing; in a way it gives the impression of being at the church during the performances.

This disc is not to be missed for anyone who likes Italian keyboard music. Unfortunately the booklet omits the disposition of the organ and a list of the registrations of the various pieces.

The second disc is devoted to one of Frescobaldi's most important collections, Fiori Musicali, which was printed in Venice in 1635. It includes music for the liturgy which was used for alternatim masses. The use of the organ during the liturgy was one of the effects of the reforms of the Council of Trent. In the Caeremoniale episcoporum the moments when the organ was supposed to play were defined. The Fiori Musicale is divided into three masses, each beginning with a Toccata avanti la Messa. Then follow organ versets for Kyrie, a Canzon dolo l'Epistola and canzonas and toccatas for various moments during the mass. The Messa della Madonna contains a special ricercar, called Recercar con obligo dicantar la quinta parte senza toccarla. It means that a fifth part is added which should be sung without support of the organ. Various solutions are taken in performances of this piece. Here it is sung on a text which begins with 'Sancta Maria'; unfortunately the lyrics are omitted in the booklet.

As in most recordings the organ versets of the Kyrie are alternated with the plainchant verses. These are sung here quite slowly. The tempi Maurizio Croci has chosen are also moderate. As a result he takes more time than Roberto Loreggian whose recording I reviewed recently. And that is even more telling considering that Loreggian includes the alternative Kyrie verses which are referred to as alio modo whereas Croce has omitted them. I find Loreggian's tempi generally more satisfying. There are also some registrations in Croce's recording which I am less happy with, in particular the Canzon dopo l'Epistola from the Messa degli Apostoli.

Loreggian plays a historical organ; Croce uses an organ which was built after historical models in 2008. It is a beautiful instrument and is well suited to this repertoire, but here I also prefer Loreggian's recording. And that also goes for the acoustical circumstances which are a bit too dry in this recording. Croce's performance offers much to enjoy, but on balance I prefer Loreggian, also because his recording is really complete.

Johan van Veen ( 2011)

Relevant links:

Maurizio Croci
Liuwe Tamminga

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