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Marco Antonio CAVAZZONI (c1490-c1560): "Complete Works - Italian Ricercars"

Glen Wilson, harpsichord

rec: Feb 20 - 23, 2017, Rügheim/Unterfranken (D), Schüttbau
Naxos - 8.572998 (© 2017) (79'34")
Liner-notes: E
Cover, track-list & booklet

anon: Ricercare No. 34 (arr Glen Wilson) [1]; Jacques BRUNEL (?-1564): Ricercare sopra Cantai mentre ch'i arsi (Cipriano de Rore); Girolamo CAVAZZONI (c1525-after 1577): Ricercar III [4]; Ricercar XX [3]; Marco Antonio CAVAZZONI: Lautre jor per un matin [2]; Madame vous aves mon cuor [2]; O stella maris [2]; Plus ne regres [2]; Perdone moi si je folie [2]; Recarcada (Castell'Arquato); Recercare I [2]; Recercare II [2]; Salve virgo [2]; Giacomo FOGLIANO (c1468-1548): Ricercare; Claudio MERULO (1533-1604): Ricercar del 4° tuono [5]; Girolamo PARABOSCO (c1524-1557): Da pacem Domine [3]; Giulio SEGNI (1498-1561): Ricercar per musica ficta; Claudio VEGGIO (c1510-after 1543): Recercada del 1° tono; Adrian WILLAERT (c1490-1562): Ricercar XIV [3]

[1] Francesco Spinacino, ed., Intabulatura de lauto, Libro primo, 1507; [2] Marco Antonio Cavazzoni, Recerchari, motetti, canzoni ... libro primo, 1525; [3] Giulio Segni, ed., Musica Nova, 1540; [4] Girolamo Cavazzoni, Intavolatura cioe recercari, canzoni, himni, magnificati ... libro primo, 1543; [5] Claudio Merulo, Ricercari d’intavolatura d'organo ... libro primo, 1567

This disc comes with a nice cover. It pictures the oldest existing harpsichord in the world and its 500th anniversary was the reason this disc was made. It was played by Marco Antonio Cavazzoni, and therefore his keyboard works are the core of this recording. However, he has left only nine pieces, and that is not enough to fill a disc. This explains why several other composers are represented in the programme.

The aim of this recording is threefold. Firstly, it wants to present the complete keyboard works by Marco Antonio Cavazzoni, one of the great composers for the keyboard of the 16th century, probably less known than his son Girolamo, who is also represented here with some of his keyboard compositions. Secondly, Glen Wilson wants to claim back, as it were, the repertoire organists consider their own. In his liner-notes he emphasizes the importance of the harpsichord and its "smaller cousins" (such as the virginal and the spinet) in early 16th-century Italy. The composers in the programme are known as organists, but were acting as harpsichordist in the first place. He further dwells on this subject in an essay which is added to the liner-notes and published on the Naxos website. The third aim is to shed light on one of the main genres of 16th-century keyboard music, the ricercar. This is a piece which is dominated by counterpoint and built the foundation of a large part of keyboard music written in Europe until well into the 18th century.

The programme shows that the word ricercar (in different spellings, including recercar, recercada. ricercata) could be used for different forms. Some pieces are rather abstract, such as those from the pen of Cavazzoni. However, Jacques Brunel, a composer of French origin, uses this term for his arrangement of Cantai mentre ch’i arsi, a madrigal by Cipriano de Rore. Girolamo Parabosco is represented with a ricercar on a sacred chant, Da pacem Domine; the tenor holds the cantus firmus in long notes.

Marco Antonio Cavazzoni left only three ricercars. Two are included in his only printed collection of keyboard music, Recerchari, motetti, canzoni ... libro primo of 1523. It comprises two sections, each including four pieces. In the first we find the two ricercars, placed as preludes to two motet arrangements. That is how they are also played here. The second part consists of four chanson arrangements. Cavazzoni claims the vocal pieces to be from his own pen. It is questionable whether these pieces are indeed based on vocal music. "The deconstructed textures of all six of the texted pieces reveal the work of a keyboard player, not that of a composer of serious polyphony", Wilson writes.

The pieces from the second section are not played in a row: they are separated by ricercares by other composers: Girolamo Cavazzoni, Adrian Willaert and Giulio Segni. The latter was responsible for one of the main collections of keyboard music printed in the 16th century: Musica Nova of 1540. It included not only pieces written by him, but also the Ricercar XIV by Adrian Willaert, best known as a composer of sacred music and generally considered the founder of the polychoral style in Venice. This piece includes a section based on the sequence of notes la-sol-fa-re-mi, often explored by composers.

This disc is of great importance. Firstly, it sheds light on the music by Marco Antonio Cavazzoni, whose pieces were published in what is considered only the second printed edition of keyboard music in history. He is a relatively little-known master, and it is nice that his output is now available complete on disc. It makes sense to mention here that the keyboard works by his son, Girolamo, have been recorded complete only a few years ago. In the programme we also find some names of composers who most music lovers have probably never heard of, such as Segni, Brunel, Veggio and Parabosco. Although Italian keyboard music of the 16th century is not that often played, recordings on harpsichord are very rare. That is another reason to welcome this disc. As one may expect from an expert in early keyboard music, Glen Wilson delivers excellent performances, which point out the high quality and different features of the various pieces. Unfortunately the booklet does not give any information about the instrument he plays.

I strongly recommend this disc and also the reading of the essay by Glen Wilson at the Naxos website. It really helps to get to know better a highly interesting and important stage in the history of keyboard music.

Johan van Veen (© 2019)

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