musica Dei donum

CD reviews

"Anonimo Venexian"

Inęs d'Avena, recordera; Claudio Ribeiro, harpsichordb

rec: Oct 15 - 17, 2018, Venice, Ospedaletto (Sala della Musica)
Ramée - RAM 1905 (© 2019) (72'02")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover, track-list & booklet
Scores Bigaglia

anon: Sinfonia 2 in Cab; Sonata ŕ Flauto solo in C (adagio)ab; Sonata per Flauto in B flatab; Suonata in Db; Diogenio BIGAGLIA (c1676-c1745): Sonata II in G, op. 1,2ab [1]; Sonata V in e minor, op. 1,5ab [1]; Francesco GASPARINI (1661-1727) (attr): Suonata Per spinetta divetta Per S.I. in Ab; Toccata di spinetta Per Sig:ra Isabella del Sig:or F:co G:ni in Db; Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) (attr): Sonata per Flauto in Fab

Source: [1] Domenico Bigaglia, XII Sonate a Violino Solo o Sia Flauto e Violoncello o Basso Continuo, op. 1, c1722

The recorder was one of the main instruments of the Renaissance and of the 17th century. During the first half of the 18th century, it had to deal with the growing popularity of the transverse flute. However, it could hold its ground, especially among amateurs, until the end of the century. From that perspective, it is rather surprising that so many recordings include the same repertoire. Recorder players also often try to expand their repertoire by turning to music for transverse flute or violin, which they adapt to their own instrument, sometimes including transposition to a more comfortable key. There are other ways to extend the repertoire, and that is what Inęs d'Avena likes to do. She is not only a fine recorder player, but also an excellent scholar. In recent years, she has done extensive research into sources from Naples, and discovered a number of sonatas for recorder and basso continuo. The present disc is the result of another project, which brought her and the harpsichordist Claudio Ribeiro to Venice. It has been a very fruitful undertaking: only the two sonatas by Bigaglia have been recorded before. All the other pieces, including those for harpsichord, appear on disc for the first time.

The discovery which undoubtedly will attract most attention, is the Sonata per Flauto in F, which opens the programme and which Ms d'Avena believes to be a composition from Vivaldi's pen. It is included in a manuscript connected to the Ospedale della Pietŕ, where Vivaldi worked for most of his life. It is the style of this sonata which pointed the two researchers in the direction of Vivaldi. It has been the subject of a debate within the editorial committee of the Istituto Italiano Antonio Vivaldi. No final conclusion has been taken yet, but the sonata could well end up with a number in the catalogue of Vivaldi's works. Whether it is indeed a piece by Vivaldi or not, recorder players will definitely be happy if a printed edition will appear, as it is a very nice work and an important addition to the repertoire.

The two sonatas by Diogenio Bigaglia are from a set of twelve, which were printed in Amsterdam around 1722. They are scored for violin, with the recorder as an alternative. We know very little about the composer. He was born and died in Venice; in 1694 he entered the monastery of S Giorgio Maggiore in his home town. Here he made a career which resulted in his appointment as prior in 1713. His oeuvre includes four oratorios; three of these are lost. His liturgical output is much larger, and includes masses, psalms and motets. In addition he composed secular cantatas, duets and trios, and some instrumental works, among them the above-mentioned sonatas. These are substantial pieces in four movements.

The Sonata in B flat is an anonymous work in four movements, written in the galant idiom. I liked in particular the second movement, a presto with an infectious rhythm. There is much variety in the anonymous Sinfonia 2 in C, and the disc ends with another anonymous piece, a lovely adagio from a Sonata in C.

The programme also includes three first recordings of harpsichord pieces, one anonymous, the other two from the pen of Francesco Gasparini, a little-known composer, who in recent years has received some attention because of his operatic output. He studied with Corelli and Pasquini in Rome, and became acquainted with Alessandro Scarlatti, who sent his son Domenico to Venice to study with Gasparini. From 1701 to 1713 he worked as maestro di coro at the Ospedale della Pietŕ. The dedicatee of the Toccata di spinetta, Sig(no)ra Isabella, may have been one of the girls in the Ospedale. She probably was also the dedicatee of the Suonata per spinetta, which is in the same manuscript as the toccata and in the same handwriting. However, the composer is not mentioned, and the performers note stylistic differences between this piece and the previous. The word spinetta in the titles should not be taken literally: it does not indicate that they should be played at the spinet. It seems rather a general indication of a strung keyboard instrument, comparable with virginals in England around 1600. The performers have not been able to find any clue as to who may be the composer of the Suonata in D, which comprises two movements without tempo indication, here interpreted as an andante and an allegro respectively. These three pieces are fine additions to the keyboard repertoire.

Inęs d'Avena and Claudio Ribeiro have delighted us with their recordings before, and this is another compelling performance of repertoire of high quality. Ms d'Avena produces a beautiful tone, her playing is strongly gestural and based on a thorough knowledge of musical rhetorics. The choice of tempi is spot-on, and I like her ornamentation, which is quite generous, but never exaggerated. She does not use the music to show off. Claudio Ribeiro is the ideal partner, whose realisations of the basso continuo are imaginative and have a strong impetus. One does not miss the addition of a cello, let alone a plucked instrument. This is pretty much an ideal combination. Ribeiro's performances of the harpsichord pieces are also excellent. It would be nice, if he was given the opportunity to make a solo disc, preferably with little-known repertoire.

This disc will definitely be one of my recordings of the year.

Johan van Veen (© 2020)

Relevant links:

Inęs d'Avena
Claudio Ribeiro

CD Reviews