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CD reviews






Italian instrumental music from around 1600

[I] Claudio MONTEVERDI & Salomone ROSSI: "Balli & Sonate"
Zachary Wilder, tenora
Clematis
rec: Oct 2016, Centeilles, glise Notre-Dame
Ricercar - RIC 377 ( 2017) (63'15")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics - translations: E/D/F
Cover, track-list & booklet
Scores Rossi

Giuseppino DEL BIALO (fl 1600): Fuggi, fuggi da questo cielo; Biagio MARINI (1594-1663): Sonata sopra Fuggi, fuggi dolente core [9]; Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643): Il Ballo delle Ingrate (SV 167) [7]; L'Orfeo (SV 318) (ritornello del Prologo; sinfonia atto II - Ecco pur ch' voi ritorno, aria; ritornello; ritornello [gagliarda] - Vi ricorda o bosch'ombrosi, aria; sinfonia [chromatica]; Qual honor di te, aria con ritornelli; moresca); Tempro la cetra (SV 117) [4]; Salomone ROSSI (1570-1630): Anima del cor mio [1]; Brando I [6]; Corrente III [6]; Gagliarda a 5 detta la Massara [3]; Gagliarda a 5 detta la Norsina [3]; Passeggio d'un balletto a 5 [3]; Sinfonia a 5 [3]; Sinfonia I [6]; Sinfonia grave a 5 [3]; Sinfonia XI [in echo] [3]; Sonata I [5]; Sonata XII sopra la Bergamasca [5]; Sonata in dialogo detta La Vienna [6]; Tirsi mio, caro Tirsi [1]; Lodovico DA VIADANA (1560-1627): Canzon francese [in riposta] [2]; Gasparo ZANETTI (c1600-1660): La Mantovana [8]

Sources: [1] Salomone Rossi, Il primo libro de madrigali ... con alcuni di detti madrigali nel chittarrone, 1600; [2] Ludovico da Viadana, Cento concerti ecclesiastici, 1605; [3] Salomone Rossi, Il primo libro delle sinfonie e gagliarde ... per sonar, 1607; [4] Claudio Monteverdi, Concerto: settimo libro de madrigali, con altri generi de canti, 1619; Salomone Rossi, [5] Il quarto libro de varie sonate, sinfonie, gagliarde, brandi e corrente, 1622; [6] Il terzo libro de varie sonate, sinfonie, gagliarde, brandi e corrente, 1623; [7] Claudio Monteverdi, Madrigali guerrieri, et amorosi con alcuni opuscoli in genere rappresentativo..., libro ottavo, 1638; [8] Gasparo Zanetti, Il scolaro ... per imparar a suonare di violino, et altri stromenti, 1645; [9] Biagio Marini, Per ogni sorte di strumento musicale diversi generi di sonate, da chiesa, e da camera, op. 22, 1655

Stphanie de Failly, Juliette Roumailhac, violin; Samantha Montgomery, Catherine Plattner, Kenny Fereira, viola; Cyril Poulet, cello; Jrme Huille, cello, lirone; Quito Gato, Bernard Zonderman, theorbo, guitar; Ayuma Nakagawa, harpsichord; Stephane Fuget, harpsichord, organ

[II] "Una Serata Venexiana"
Capella de la Torre
Dir: Katharina Buml
rec: Nov 26 - 29, 2016, Essen, Schloss Borbeck
deutsche harmonia mundi - 88985470112 ( 2017) (69'35"))
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover, track-list & booklet

anon: Pan de miglio caldo; Filippo AZZAIOLO (c1535-after 1569): Come t'aggio lasciato, o vita mia; Giulio Cesare BARBETTA (1540-1603): Moresca IV detta la Bergamasca (arr. Katharina Buml); Giovanni BASSANO (1551/2-1617): Susanne ung jour; Fabritio CAROSO (1525/35-1605/20): La Villanella Balletto; Maurizio CAZZATI (1616-1678): Gagliarda detta la Magnani; Bartolomeo COLOMBI (early 17th C): Bergamasca; Andrea FALCONIERI (c1585-1656): Passacalle; Giovanni Giacomo GASTOLDI (c1553-1609): Domine ad adiuvandum; Orlandus LASSUS (1532-1594): Susanne ung jour; Bartolomeo MONTALBANO (c1595-1651): Sinfonia IV 'Geloso'; Diego ORTIZ (c1510-c1570): Recercada Ruggero; Francesco PATAVINO (c1478-c1556): Dill dal'acqua; Le pur morte feragu/Venni gia la Bergamasca; Niccol PIFFARO (c1480-1566): Di lassar tuo divo aspetto; Salomone ROSSI (1570-1630): Gagliarda a 5 detta la Massara; Sinfonia a 5; Sinfonia grave; Sonata XII sopra La Bergamasca; Giacomo SPIARDO (fl c1615): Suono del Ballo de Cigni; Marco UCCELLINI (1603/10-1680): Sonata II 'La Luciminia contenta'; Gasparo ZANETTI (c1600-1660): Aria del Gran Duca; La Bergamasca (arr. Katharina Buml)

Anne Schumann, violin; Hildegard Wippermann, recorder, shawm; Katharina Buml, shawm; Falko Munkwitz, sackbut; Regina Hahnke, dulcian; Felix Grg, violone; Johannes Vogt, Johannes Gontarski, theorbo, guitar; Martina Fiedler, organ; Peter A. Bauer, percussion

[III] "Altri canti d'amor"
L'Estro d'Orfeo
Dir: Leonor de Lera
rec: Sept 13 - 16, 2016, Secadura (Cantabria), Iglesia de San Juan Bautista
Challenge Classics - CC72760 ( 2017) (50'02")
Liner-notes: E/F
Cover, track-list & booklet

Francesco CAVALLI (1602-1676): Canzon 3; La Calisto, opera (Lucidissima face); Leonor DE LERA: Diminuzioni sopra il 'Lamento d'Apollo' (Cavalli); Biagio MARINI (1594-1663): Sonata I sopra Fuggi, fuggi dolente core [8]; Tarquinio MERULA (1595-1665): Chacona 3 col basso [2]; Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643): Sinfonia - Altri canti d'amor (SV 146) [3]; Riccardo ROGNONI (1550-1620): Ancor che col partire per la viola bastarda [1]; Barbara STROZZI (1619-1677): L'Eraclito Amoroso [7]; Marco UCCELLINI (1603-1680): Aria IV sopra la Ciaccona 3 [4]; Aria XIII sopra Questa bella sirena [5] Sonata IX, op. 5,9 [6]

Sources: [1] Riccardo Rognoni, Passaggi per potersi essercitare del diminuire terminatamente con ogni sorte d'instromenti, 1592; [2] Tarquinio Merula, Canzoni, overo sonate concertate per chiesa, e camera ..., libro III, op. 12, 1637; [3] Claudio Monteverdi, Madrigali guerrieri, et amorosi con alcuni opuscoli in genere rappresentativo..., libro ottavo, 1638; Marco Uccellini, [4] Sonate, arie et correnti, op. 3, 1642; [5] Sonate, correnti et arie, op. 4, 1645; [6] Sonate over canzoni da farsi violino solo, & basso continuo, op. 5, 1649; [7] Barbara Strozzi, Cantate, ariette e duetti, op. 2, 1651; [8] Biagio Marini, Per ogni sorte di strumento musicale diversi generi di sonate, da chiesa, e da camera, op. 22, 1655

Josu Melndez, cornett; Leonor de Lera, Lucia Giraudo, violin; Rodney Prada, viola da gamba; Josep Maria Mart, theorbo, guitar; Javier Nez, harpsichord

The three discs under review here cover instrumental music writtten in Italy from the mid-16th to the mid-17th century. Many stylistic changes took place during that period. However, there was also a considerable amount of continuity. In vocal music the monody made its appearance, but composers continued to write polyphony, sometimes in the pure stile antico, sometimes with a mixture of old and new elements. The same is true for the instrumental music of the time. On the one hand composers wrote virtuosic music for solo instruments, exploring the specific features of a particular instrument. On the other hand they composed music for instrumental ensembles, either based on vocal models (canzona) or dance music. The latter was often included as ballet music in operas and other kinds of music for the theatre. Diminutions - in Italy known as passaggi - constitute an interesting example of a mixture of the old and the new style: they were technically demanding, but not intended for one particular instrument, and were based on vocal music in the stile antico.

These discs focus on music written in northern Italy. The ensemble Clematis brings together two composers who were colleagues in Mantua, in the service of the Gonzagas (although it is not entirely clear whether Rossi was officially appointed at the court). Monteverdi entered the service of this powerful family in 1590, and stayed here until 1613, when he moved to Venice to took up the position of maestro di cappella at St Mark's. Salomone Rossi, of Jewish origin, lived and worked in Mantua all his life; there he was also born. It is quite possible that he participated in the first performance of Monteverdi's opera L'Orfeo in 1607.

In contrast to Monteverdi Rossi left a considerable amount of instrumental music. Between 1607 and 1622 he published four books with sonatas, sinfonias and dances, predominantly for violins. In his instrumental he is at his most modern, and some of his sonatas point in the direction of what was to become the trio sonata.

No instrumental music from Monteverdi's pen has come down to us. That is to say: independent instrumental music, as in a number of vocal works he included instrumental sections which betray his training as an instrumentalist. We should not overlook the fact that he was appointed as a player of the viola da gamba in Mantua. Jrme Lejeune, in his liner-notes, also points out that Monteverdi's birthplace, Cremona, was a centre of violin making. Therefore it cannot surprise that the instrumental episodes in his vocal works are of a substantial nature.

Clematis included several specimens of this part of Monteverdi's oeuvre. Sometimes the instrumental sections are so strongly tied up with the vocal parts that they cannot be performed separately. This explains the cooperation of the tenor Zachary Wilder, who also sings some madrigals by Rossi.

This is an interesting disc for the juxtaposition of various forms, which is so characteristic of the first quarter of the 17th century, a time of experiments. The extensive attention given to Rossi's instrumental music lends this disc additional weight, as that part of his oeuvre is not that well known. Wilder sings the vocal items very well; he pays much attention to the text and adds some stylish ornamentation, which is technically impeccable. Clematis does equally well, bringing the instrumental pieces to life with much imagination. Sometimes I found the tempo a bit too slow, for instance at the opening of Monteverdi's Il Ballo delle Ingrate. The programme offers some nice additional pieces by other composers, such as Marini, Del Biabo and Zanetti (the latter two I had never heard of), with three versions of the song Fuggi, fuggi dolente cori, which is closely connected to Mantua, as Zanetti's naming his version La Mantovana shows.

However, there is one not unimportant issue. Considering Monteverdi's playing the viola da gamba and the predominance of this instrument it is a mystery to me why the ensemble decided to use a cello as string bass. At this time the cello as we have come to know it, did not exist yet. I also have some reservations regarding the inclusion of the guitar.

The second disc is somewhat different: the Capella de la Torre brings a programme of instrumental music from Venice. Not all the music was written in Venice, but most of it was published there. Venice was the centre of music printing in Italy, and this explains why Salomone Rossi published all his collections of vocal and instrumental music there. This also explains the inclusion of some pieces from his pen in the programme. Interestingly these are the same as played by Clematis, which allows for an interesting comparison, as the Capella de la Torre is an ensemble of wind instruments. For this occasion it is joined by the violinist Anne Schumann, who plays some solo items and now and then plays with the wind.

"Venice has always been the place of yearning for anyone involved in music, whether performers or composers. It was the home of the piffari, the Doges town waits, and there were of course splendid composers who wrote for winds. Then again it was a city where a lot of music appeared in print, not least a great deal of string music. So we lit on the idea of juxtaposing wind instruments and string instruments in a story that takes place in Venice shortly after 1600. They wind up in a heated debate as to which of them has the greater artistry and which is musically more important." Thus the programme is presented in the booklet. This "debate" has to be taken with a grain of salt. Some pieces included here are about 100 years older than others. It is highly questionable whether performers played music written, say, more than 50 years earlier, and therefore it seems unlikely that the music recorded here may ever have been performed at the same time.

This distance in time also results in stylistic differences. The pieces by the likes of Azzaiolo and Patavino are exponents of the stile antico, whereas Uccellini's Sonata II 'La Luciminia contenta' is scored for violin and basso continuo and written in the modern concertato style. However, as I already stated, such music was still written in Uccellini's time, and from that perspective there is no objection to including them here. One probably could argue that Katharina Buml should have chosen some later stuff.

The programme is very interesting in that it includes several composers who are hardly known. That goes for some I already mentioned (Azzaiolo, Patavino), but also for composers such as Piffato, Spiardo, Caroso and Colombi. Even the music by the likes of Gastoldi, Montalbani or Cazzati is seldom performed and recorded. The Capella de la Torre is quite a productive ensemble and although their programmes are often a little inconsistent, they are always compelling and the performances are generally excellent. That is no different here. The only reservation is the frequent use of percussion. It seems perfectly possible to perform dance music without it. Here its inclusion seems a bit overdone.

With the third disc we then (almost) entirely turn to the stile moderno: pieces for one or two solo instruments and basso continuo, reflecting the virtuosity, which was one of the features of the new era in music. However, the programme is a bit different from what we usually hear. And there are several links to the two discs which I just discussed.

That begins with the first item in the programme: Monteverdi's madrigal Altri canti d'Amor, preceded by a sinfonia. This is a link to the disc of Clematis, but at the same time the approach of L'Estro d'Orfeo is very different. Rather than only the instrumental episodes the entire piece is performed instrumentally. Instrumental performance of vocal music was a quite common practice at the time, and that justifies the Capella de la Torre's playing Gastoldi's Domine ad adiuvandum. However, whether that practice also included the performance of madrigals and other vocal pieces in the stile moderno is a different matter. Even more unusual is the instrumental performance of the cantata L'Eraclito amoroso by Barbara Strozzi at the cornett, including the recitatives. I find that rather odd, and I would like to see historical evidence that such a practice was known at the time.

The programme also looks back to the late 16th century: it includes two examples of diminutions. Rognoni's Ancor che col partire is written in the viola bastarda technique ("A style of virtuoso solo bass viol playing favoured in Italy from about 1580 to about 1630, which condensed a polyphonic composition (madrigal, chanson or motet) to a single line, whilst retaining the original range, and with the addition of elaborate diminutions, embellishments and new counterpoint (...)"; New Grove). The other is created by Leonor de Lera herself; she took the 'Lamento d'Apollo' from Cavalli's opera Gli amori d'Apollo e di Dafne. That is well done, but it seems that when Cavalli composed his opera (1640) the genre of diminutions was rather something of the past.

The programme includes also two specimens of a highly popular genre of the 17th century: pieces based on a basso ostinato. In this case it is the ciaccona, which both Tarquinio Merula and Marco Uccellini took as the foundation for an instrumental work. Here is a link with the disc of the Capella de la Torre, which plays a series of pieces on La Bergamasca, another popular basso ostinato at the time.

This seems the first recording of the ensemble L'Estro d'Orfeo. Its members are all excellent performers, who impressively master their instrument. That goes for Leonor de Lera, playing the violin, but also for cornettist Josu Melndez. The string playing is a little more penetrating than that of Clematis, as especially the comparison of the two performances of Marini's Sonata sopra Fuggi, fuggi, dolente core shows. Sometimes I found the basso continuo a bit obtrusive, in particular in the diminutions on Cavalli's 'Lamento d'Apollo'. In a piece of a lamenting character the basso continuo should be more restrained.

All said and done, and considering the various issues regarding the respective discs, these three releases can be welcomed as interesting and musically captivating demonstrations of the quality of instrumental music in the decades around 1600.

Johan van Veen ( 2018)

Relevant links:

Capella de la Torre
Clematis
L'Estro d'Orfeo


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