musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583 - 1643): "Affetti amorosi"

Le Banquet Céleste
Dir: Damien Guillon

rec: June 24 - 28, 2017, Froville, Eglise Notre-Dame
Glossa - GCD 923702 (© 2018) (69'12")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics - translations: E
Cover, track-list & booklet

Ancidetemi purf; Ardo e taccio il mio malbefgh [1]; Balletto e Ciacconah; Con dolcezza pietatebcdefh [1]; Corilla danzando sul pratoabcfg [1]; Così mi disprezzateaefgh [1]; Doloroso mio corebcdfg [2]; Dove ne vai pensieroacegh [1]; Dunque dovròaefgh [1]; Eri già tutta miaacgh [1]; Gagliarda IIIh; Gioite oh selveacefgh [2]; Maddalena alla crocebegh [1]; Non mi negate ohimèbefgh [1]; Non vi partiteacfg [2]; Oh dolorebcdefg [2]; Ohimè che furaegh [1]; Oscure selvebg [2]; Passacaglih; Se l'aura spiracef [1]; Ti lascio anima miabefg [2]; Toccata per spinetta, overo liutoeg; Troppo sotto due stelledefg [1]; Vanne o carta amorosaaf [2]; Voi partite mio soleceh [2]

Sources: Primo libro d'arie musicali per cantarsi, 1630; Secondo libro d'arie musicali per cantarsi, 1630

Céline Scheen, sopranoa; Damien Guillon, altob; Thomas Hobbs, tenorc; Benoît Arnould, bassd; Julien Barre, celloe; Marie-Domitille Murez, harpf; André Henrich, luteg; Kevin Manent-Navratil, harpsichordh

Girolamo Frescobaldi was one of the most important and most influential composers of keyboard music of the early 17th century. He attracted many pupils from all over Europe, and in particular through his German pupil Johann Jacob Froberger he had a strong influence on the development of keyboard music throughout the continent. Far lesser known is the fact that he also composed music for instrumental ensemble and vocal works. Whereas his keyboard music was mainly written when he worked in Rome, his vocal works may have been written over a longer period of time, when Frescobaldi was not only in Rome, but also in Mantua and in Florence.

In March 1628 Ferdinando II, Grand Duke of Tuscany, visited Rome, and in November of that year Frescobaldi was appointed as his organist. In reward Frescobaldi dedicated the collection of Canzoni in one to four parts and basso continuo to Ferdinando. While in Florence Frescobaldi also published two collections of Arie Musicali per cantarsi. The first book was dedicated again to the Grand Duke, the second to Marchese Roberto Obizzi, a nobleman from Ferrara - Frescobaldi's native city - who served as the duke's Master of the Horse.

Frescobaldi's vocal music has never been given that much attention. The main reason is probably that his oeuvre is so much dominated by his keyboard music, and that this is of such quality and has had so much influence that it overshadowed all other parts of his output. Another reason could be the rather negative assessment of his vocal music by the theorist Giovanni Battista Doni (1595-1647), who told the French theorist Marin Mersenne that Frescobaldi didn't understand poetry and had to ask his wife to explain its meaning to him. Having listened to several recordings over the years, including the present one, I have to say that - assuming the story is true - his wife has done a pretty good job.

Frescobaldi makes use of various vocal and poetic genres, which are indicated in the score with terms like canto in stile recitativo, aria, sonetto or madrigale. Unfortunately the track-list omits these additions. Obviously these different genres result in different settings. Frescobaldi preferred a free treatment of the rhythm, but some pieces clearly have a dance character, whose rhythms have to be respected by the performers. Se l'aura spira, one of Frescobaldi's most famous vocal pieces, is a perfect example of a dance song; a free treatment of the rhythm is out of order here.

That is very different in Ardo e taccio il mio mal, which is through-composed and has the character of a monody in the style of Caccini. No wonder Frescobaldi called it a canto in stile recitativo. Other examples of monodies are Ti lascio anima mia, Ohimè che fur and Maddalena alla croce. The latter is one of the few sacred items in these two collections. Like the others the text is in the vernacular. There is less rhythmic freedom in the strophic pieces, such as Troppo sotto due stelle and Non mi negate, both called aria.

The same goes for the duets and trios. Whereas in the solo arias only seldom the voice type is indicated, these are written for specified voice types, such as Dove ne vai pensiero, which is a canzone a due voci, canto e tenore. Also for soprano and tenor is Eri già tutta mia. Duets are not used for a juxtaposition of two different characters, such as in the cantata à due of the early 18th century. In his duets and trios Frescobaldi explores counterpoint for expressive reasons. That is the case, for instance, in Corilla danzando sul prato, for soprano, alto and tenor, and in Doloroso mio core for alto, tenor and bass.

There is no lack of harmonic peculiarities in the solo pieces either. Dissonances and chromaticism are used to express the emotions of the text, such as in Ti lascio anima mia, one of the best pieces on this disc. Several of the songs are based on bassi ostinati, such as Così mi disprezzate (passacaglia), Dunque dovrò (romanesca) and Ti lascio anima mia (ruggieri).

As far as I know there are hardly any complete recordings of Frescobaldi's two volumes with arias. The Frescobaldi Edition of Brilliant Classics may well be the only one. This disc brings a selection of 20 pieces from the two volumes, which comprise 43 arias in total. Fortunately the selection is such that several lesser-known items are included.

Overall the performances are very good. All the singers have a vast experience in early music and that results in convincing interpretations. Some items come off better than others, which is only natural. Most solo items are sung by Céline Scheen and Damien Guillon. The latter is particularly impressive in Ti lascio anima mia, the former, for instance, in Così mi disprezzate. Thomas Hobbs sings Se l'aura spira nicely; he doesn't sing any repeats, unlike other performers. As I don't have access to the score, I can't check whether Frescobaldi gives any indication in this matter. Benoît Arnould has just one solo piece, Troppo sotto due stella, which he sings nicely.

That said, I am a little disappointed that now and then in particular Céline Scheen and sometimes also Damien Guillon use more vibrato than they should. Those are the singers from which I had not expected that, whereas Thomas Hobbs is better than I expected. However, there is much to enjoy here, not the least thanks to Frescobaldi, who shows that he perfectly knew how to set texts in an expressive manner.

Johan van Veen (© 2018)

Relevant links:

Le Banquet Céleste

CD Reviews