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Tomaso CECCHINI (CECCHINO) (?1580 - 1644): "Nebo i zemlja - The Heaven and Earth of Tomaso Cecchini"

Monika Cerovcec, Anabela Baric, soprano; Martina Borse, contralto; Siniša Galovic, Hugo Paulsson Stove, tenor; Krešimir Stražanac, bass-baritone
Croatian Radiotelevision Choir; Concerto dei venti; Ana Vasic, violin; Fran Petrac, violone; Izidor Erazem Grafenauer, theorbo; Dario Poljak, organ
Dir: Tomislav Facini

rec: Nov 21 - 27, 2019, Zagreb, [Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary], Jordanovac
HRT Music Department - HRT 048 (© 2020) (51'52")
Liner-notes: E/HR; lyrics - translations: E/HR

All'aura d'un dolcissimo sospiro; Cantemus Domino; Care bendette nere; Confitemini Domino; Crudel se t'č sě grave; Dimmi caro ben mio; Donna s'č foco d'amore; Homai che giunta č l'hora; Laudate Dominum; Missa; Mori mi dite; O sospetto fallace; O vaga eterena aurora; Se dite che'l partir; Sonata VIII; Surge, propera, amica mea

[CdV] Martin Bolterauer, cornett; Robert Alexander Schlegl, Juan González Martínez, Tural Ismayilov, sackbut

Most music of the renaissance and baroque periods performed and recorded today is from the pen of composers who lived in the centre of Europe. The repertoire written at the margins of the continent receives less attention. I am referring here to Scandinavia, Portugal, and countries of what in times of the Cold War was called 'Eastern Europe'. Music from Bohemia (today the Czech Republic) is the exception, and since a few years Poland is in the process of exploring its musical heritage of the renaisssance and baroque periods. However, what about Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and the countries of the Balkan? Very little of their musical history is known among music lovers at large, and it seems possible that even music lovers in those countries know pretty little about it. It is partly due to the revival of early music and the dissemination of historical performance practice that some of the repertoire from those parts of Europe is being examined and performed. The disc under review here is a good example.

Tomaso Cecchini was born in Soare near Verona; he called himself Veronese. Nothing is known for sure about his musical education. He made a career in Dalmatia, region of today's Croatia, comprising a central coastal strip and a fringe of islands along the Adriatic Sea. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries this was part of the Republic of Venice. In 1603 Cecchini was appointed maestro di cappella at Split Cathedral, probably at the invitation of Archbishop Marco Antonio de Dominis. His whereabouts between 1607 and 1613 are not known; in the latter year he returned to Split. In 1614 De Dominis lost his position, and Cecchini moved to Lesina (today Hvar), where he took the position of maestro di cappella at the Cathedral. There he remained for the rest of his life.

Given the connection to Venice, it does not surprise that music life showed strong similarity with what was going on there, and that includes the oeuvre of Cecchini. It consists of sacred music, which shows a mixture of the stile antico and the modern concertato style, and madrigals written in the monodic style introduced by the likes of Giulio Caccini. In addition Cecchini composed some instrumental works with parts for solo instruments which is not any different from what was written in Italy at the time. A perfect example of the latter is the Sonata VIII for two instruments and basso continuo, performed here on cornett and violin, with a bass sackbut in the basso continuo.

Some of Cecchini's works are lost. His extant oeuvre comprises ten collections of sacred music and four with secular works. Today Cecchini may be a marginal figure, only known among specialists of Balkan music history, but that was different in his own time. Pieces from his pen were included in anthologies, and Michael Praetorius referred to Cecchini in the third part of his Syntagma Musicum.

Cecchini's Canti Spirituali of 1613 are among the first sacred pieces in the modern monodic style in Europe that were published. The programme does not include any pieces from this collection, but rather from the Psalmi, missa, et alia cantica of 1619. It includes a setting of the Mass Ordinary as well as motets. The tutti sections are in the stile antico, and often homophonic. They alternate with sections for solo voices in the monodic style. Cecchini's mastery of this style is particularly demonstrated in the secular pieces, taken from the two extant collections of Amorosi concetti of 1612 (vol. 1) and 1616 (vol. 3); the second volume has been lost. They are scored for one or two voices and basso continuo.

The attention for Cecchini is not of recent date. Already in 1938 a study of this composer and his music was published. However, research and performance are two different things. There was some interest in the musical heritage of countries at the margins of Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but the idea of actually performing such music was often out of the question. It was only at the end of the 20th century that Cecchini's music was performed. At that time, performances in countries at the Balkan had little to do with historical performance practice. That has fundamentally changed. Dario Poljak, in his liner notes, rightly states: "Today's performances of his works have been enriched by the historically informed performance which has brought a fresh perspective on Cecchini's works. By gaining this new view, we are able to experience it in a different way than it was possible before".

Most of the performers may be hardly known outside Croatia. The main exception is the bass-baritone Krešimir Stražanac, who is a well-known opera singer, but also participates in performances and recordings of early music, for instance under Philippe Herreweghe. Overall, I am pretty happy with the performances. The madrigals require quite some ornamentation, and some of it is not techically impeccable, and Stražanac's voice is not my cup of tea. However, he does better than I was expecting, and the two sopranos who sing a number of madrigals do so pretty well. The choral entries are a bit too massive, but the Choir of Crotian Radio and Television is a good ensemble. The instrumental parts are given excellent performances.

Cecchini is definitely an interesting composer and I would like to hear more from him. So let's hope that there is more to come.

Johan van Veen (© 2021)

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Krešimir Stražanac

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