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Baldassare VIALARDO (fl c1620): Missa Vestiva i colli

Musica Fiorita
Dir: Daniela Dolci

rec: Jan 17 - 20, 2015, Basel, Adullam-Kapelle
Pan Classics - PC 10344 (© 2016) (61'38")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: E
Cover & track-list

Adriano BANCHIERI (1568-1634): Canzona VI L'Alcenagina sopra Vestiva i colli; Giovanni Paolo CIMA (c1570-1630): Cantantibus organis; Confitemini Domino; Jubilate Deo; Laudate Dominum; Veni sponsa Christi; Ignazio DONATI (1570-1638): O gloriosa Domina; William DONGOIS: Improvisation on Vestiva i colli; Michel'Angelo GRANCINI (1605-1669): Exultate Christo; Quid est, quod dilectus meus; Trium puerorum; Francesco ROGNONI Taeggio (1570-1626): Vestiva i colli; Bartolomeo DE SELMA Y SALAVERDE (1605-1650): Vestiva i colli; Baldassare VIALARDO: Missa Vestiva i colli

Miriam Feuersinger, soprano; Daniel Cabena, alto; Michael Fayfar, Hans Jörg Mammel, tenor; Jean-Christophe Groffe, bass; Bork-Frithjof Smith, William Dongois, cornett; Germán Etcheverri, violin, viola; Simen Van Mechelen, Adam Bregman, sackbut; Michael Lang-Alsvik, viola da gamba; Marco Lo Cicero, violone; Juan Sebastián Lima, archlute; Daniela Dolci, harpsichord, organ

Some pieces which were written in the 16th century gained such a popularity that they were frequently used as cantus firmus for a mass or as a subject of instrumental arrangements. Among them are Rore's madrigal Ancor che col partire and also Vestiva i colli, one of the relatively few madrigals from the pen of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. The latter piece is the thread of the programme which Daniela Dolci recorded with her ensemble Musica Fiorita.

The text of the madrigal is printed in the booklet but it is rather odd that Palestrina's setting is not included in the programme. That would have made it much easier to recognize the upper voice - the one which was mostly used by other composers - in the various arrangements. The instrumental works are all based on the madrigal and are specimens of diminutions, a genre which was very popular in Italy in the late 16th and early 17th century. Diminutions are the first examples of instrumental virtuosity and point in the direction of the sonata which was going to be one of the main forms of instrumental music in the first half of the 17th century, the time of the seconda prattica. Most diminutions were written for the two main instruments of the time: the cornett and the violin. Here such diminutions are represented by a piece from the pen of Francesco Rognoni, one of the main composers of such music, played here on the violin, and a fine improvisation by cornettist William Dongois. Bartolomeo de Selma y Salaverde was a professional player of the dulcian; his diminutions are performed here on the sackbut.

The main item is the Missa Vestiva i colli by Baldassare Vialardo. It seems that next to nothing is known about him; the booklet only mentions that he was maestro di cappella in Milan, and New Grove doesn't know him at all. The Mass recorded here is a late example of a parody mass, a genre which was very common in the 16th century. It fell out of fashion after 1600; only few such masses were written, among them Monteverdi's Missa da cappella which is based on Gombert's motet In illo tempore and was published in 1610, together with the Vespro della Beata Vergine. Like Monteverdi's Mass Vialardo's Missa Vestiva i colli is dominated by the stile antico of the 16th century. It is here performed in a mixture of voices and instruments. The latter play mostly colla voce but sometimes a passage is performed by a solo voice with the instruments playing the remaining parts.

As only five of the thirteen items in the programme are directly connected to Palestrina's madrigal it is fair to say that Vestiva i colli is not the real subject of this production. It is rather the coexistence of prima and seconda prattica in the first half of the 17th century. The masses by Vialardo and Monteverdi bear witness to this but also the pieces by Giovanni Paolo Cima. They are taken from a single source but are quite different in character. Laudate Dominum is the most eloquent example of the mixture of elements of both styles in one piece. It is for four voices and basso continuo and the tutti passages are mostly syllabic. However, the piece includes also several episodes for one or several solo voices and these show the influence of the monodic style which was propagated by Giulio Caccini and which we also find in the concerti in Monteverdi's Vespers. Cima's mastery of monody comes even better to the fore in the solo motets Veni sponsa Christi and Cantantibus organis. The former's text clearly refers to the Song of Songs: "Come, thou bride of Christ, accept the crown which he Lord has prepared for you for all eternity. Hallelujah". The connection to this book from the Bible is even stronger in Quid est, quod dilectus meus by Michel'Angelo Grancini which is a dialogue of two characters, represented by soprano and bass respectively: "Who is that announced my beloved Angelico; come, o my beloved, and show me your ardour". The monodic style, with its emphasis on the audibility of the words and the expression of the affetti, was the ideal tool for such texts, although the Church was highly criticical of the seconda prattica, especially as it was associated with opera. This explains why many composers of the 17th century - particularly in Rome - continued to compose sacred music in the stile antico.

Many pieces in the new style were scored for solo voice(s) and bc; this allowed for performances by various voice types. But there were also pieces in which the voice was joined by a melody instrument whose part was often just as virtuosic and vocal in character as the texted part. Examples are Exultate Christo for two tenors, two cornetts and bc by Michel'Angelo Grancini and O gloriosa Domina by Ignazio Donati. The latter is for tenor, cornett and bc; the cornett answers the voice in the form of an echo. This was a very popular composition technique at the time, frequently used in opera. In the former piece the two cornetts largely play ritornellos between the texted episodes. Grancini's Trium puerorum is an interesting piece for three high voices - undoubtedly reflecting the children the text refers to: "Let us sing the song of the Three Children, which saints sung in the furnace of fire" (this Song appears in Roman Catholic Bibles after Daniel 3,23, according to Wikipedia). It is performed here with soprano and two cornetts. I have no access to the score but it seems to me that the three treble parts are probably all intended for voices. There is no fundamental objection to the line-up in this recording but the interplay between the three voices would probably be even more impressive if all three voices would be sung.

This is a most interesting disc. Most of the pieces are hardly known and many of them may appear here on disc for the first time. It seems to me that in particular Cima and Grancini deserve more attention; Cima's 1610 collection is a very interesting source which is hardly explored as yet. The performances are excellent. The voices blend perfectly and the performances of the singers individually are impressive. I especially like the use of the messa di voce in the monodic pieces, for instance in Cima's Jubilate Deo and the duet Quid est, quod dilectus meus by Grancini. This was an important device of singers at the time and is especially effective to express strong emotions. Miriam Feuersinger and Hans Jörg Mammel have the right dynamic range. Daniel Cabena finds the right approach in the almost sensual motet Veni sponsa Christi by Cima. The instrumentalists are also of the highest standard. Germán Echeverri plays Rognoni's diminutions brilliantly and Simen Van Mechelen is equally impressive in Selma y Salaverde.

Johan van Veen (© 2016)

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