musica Dei donum

CD reviews

"Cavalieri Imperiali"

Dir: Lambert Colson

rec: Sept 2019, Bolland (B), Église Saint-Apollinaire
Ricercar - RIC 419 (© 2020) (65'49")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover, track-list & booklet

Emanuel ADRIAENSSEN (1554-1604): Madonna mia pietà (Orlandus Lassus) [1]; anon: Ricercar; Giovanni Battista BUONAMENTE (1595-1642): Sonata IV [6]; Dario CASTELLO (1602-1631): Sonata XVII [7]; Orlandus LASSUS (1532-1594): Concupiscendo concupiscit anima mea; Luzzasco LUZZASCHI (1545-1607): Cor mio [3]; Ascanio MAYONE (1570-1627): Ricercar I à 3 [4]; Massimiliano NERI (c1623-1673): Sonata VIII à 6 [8]; Giovanni PRIULI (1575/80-1629): Sonata III à 6 [5]; Riccardo ROGNONI TAEGGIO (1550-1620): Ancor che col partire (Cipriano de Rore, c1515-1565) [2]; Vincenzo RUFFO (1508-1587): Vespere autem sabbati; Johann Heinrich SCHMELZER (1623-1680): Sonata à 4 detta la Carolietta; Sonata II à 8 [9]; Giovanni VALENTINI (1582-1649) Sonata à 4

Sources: [1] Emanuel Adriaenssen, Pratum Musicum, 1584; [2] Riccardo Rognoni Taeggio, Passagi per potersi esercitare nel diminuire, 1594; [3] Luzzasco Luzzaschi, Madrigali ... per cantare et sonare a uno, e doi, e tre soprani, 1601; [4] Ascanio Mayone, Primo libro di diversi capricci per sonare, 1603; [5] Giovanni Priuli, Sacrorum concentuum, pars prima, 1618; [6] Giovanni Battista Buonamente, Sonate et canzoni a 2,3,4,5 e 6 voci, Libro sesto, 1636; [7] Dario Castello, Sonate concertate in stil moderno, Libro secondo, 16442; [8] Massimiliano Neri, Sonate da sonarsi con varii stromenti, 1651; [9] Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, Sacro-profanus concentus musicus, 1662

Lambert Colson, Josué Meléndez Peláez, cornett; Guy Hanssen, Susanna Defendi, Charlotte Van Passen, Bart Vroomen, sackbut; Marie Rouquié, Gabriel Grosbard, violin; Édouard Catalan, Ronan Kernoa, bass violin; Anaïs Ramage, bassoon; Pierre Gallon, harpsichord; Marc Meisel, organ

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the cornett played a major role at the music scene. It was part of ensembles of cornetts and sackbuts, which played ensemble pieces, but also participated in performances of sacred music in churches and chapels, either playing colla voce or substituting for one or more vocal parts. Around 1600, a new style emerged, part of which was the composition of pieces for one or several solo instruments. This resulted in a large repertoire of virtuosic sonatas for instruments as the violin, the cornett, the sackbut and the dulcian. Often the choice of instrument was left to the performer, but many pieces also indicate the preferred instrument. The present disc includes specimens of pieces of different character, in which especially the wind instruments play a central role.

The programme is inspired by two cornett virtuosos, who are called "cavalieri imperiali", as they were in the service of the imperial court in Vienna. The first is Luigi Zenobi (1547/48-after 1602), who served under the emperors Maximilian II and Rudolf II in Vienna. During the latter's reign, he left Vienna for the court of the Este family in Ferrara, but later returned to Vienna. Rudolf made him a knight, which earned him the nickname of Cavaliere del Cornetto. The other cornettist was Giovanni Sansoni (1593-1648), who in 1614 entered the service of Archduke Ferdinand in Graz. When the latter became emperor, he moved to Vienna with his chapel and remained in Ferdinand's service for the rest of his life. Like Zenobi he was ennobled by the emperor.

As the two cornettists were of different generations, the pieces in the programme are also from different times. It opens with a six-part motet by Orlandus Lassus, one of the giants of his time and a prolific composer, whose output was available in many printed editions. His motet Concupiscendo concupiscit anima mea and Vincenzo Ruffo's motet Vespere autem sabbati, which closes the programme, are both taken from a manuscript preserved in Regensburg. These are specimens of instrumental arrangements of vocal compositions; both bear the indication that they have to be performed with two cornetts and four sackbuts. During the second half of the 16th century, the playing of diminutions became very popular. In most cases, a player took the upper part of a motet or madrigal, broke up long notes into short ones and added his own ornaments. Diminutions were usually improvised, but some of the exponents of this art published treatises with musical examples. One of them was Riccardo Rognoni Taeggio; he took Rore's most famous madrigal Ancor che col partire for a set of diminutions. Lassus's villanella Madonna mia pietà was taken by the Antwerp lutenist Emanuel Adriaenssen for diminutions, probably originally intended for the lute, but in most cases the performer has the freedom to choose his own instrument. The particularly interesting thing about the performance of Rognoni Taeggio's piece is that the cornett is accompanied by the harpsichord with its lid closed. This results in a very soft, muffled sound. Zenobi remarked in a letter that cornett players "must cultivate the piano more than the forte, since the former serves for the chambers of princes and in places of respect, and it is the main mode of disclosing the defects and the excellence of the player". The writer on music Vincenzo Giustiniani wrote about Zenobi: "He played many times in one of my little rooms to the accompaniment of a harpsichord which was closed up and could scarcely be heard; and he played the cornetto with such moderation and exactitude that it astonished many gentleman present who liked music, because the cornetto did not overshadow the sound of the harpsichord." It is a particularly nice aspect of this recording that we hear the cornett in a role which is somewhat different from how it is mostly presented.

In addition to this chamber music, we hear several sonatas for a combination of instruments. Among them, the sonatas by Dario Castello, published in two volumes under the title of Sonate concertate are among the best-known. They are frequently performed, and although Castello indicates the instruments for which they are intended, performers often take the freedom to choose a different line-up. The Sonata XVII from the second volume is interesting as it is scored for cornett and violin which both have their own echo. The Sonata à 4 detta la Corioletta by Johann Heinrich Schmelzer is a typical example of a piece for a mixture of diverse instruments: violin, cornett, sackbut and dulcian.

The technique of cori spezzati was very popular and highly developed around 1600, in particular in Venice. It exerted great attraction on composers across Europe. Originally used for vocal music, the habit of splitting an ensemble into two opposing groups was also applied to instrumental music. Here we find three pieces in six and eight parts respectively (Priuli, Neri, Schmelzer), in which the composers have divided the ensemble in two opposing groups. Even in sonatas for two different instruments, such as Buonamente's Sonata IV, the cori spezzati principle manifests itself.

During its heydays, the cornett was one of the most revered instruments, especially as it was thought to be able to imitate the human's voice more than any other instrument. It is also one of the most difficult instruments to play. In the early days of historical performance practice, more than once the cornettist went off the road. Those days are gone; in our time we can admire the art of playing the cornett in many concerts and on many discs. The present disc is one of them. Lambert Colson presents himself here as a true cavaliere del cornetto himself. His ability to play rather softly in some pieces is quite impressive. He has put together a nice and varied programme which demonstrates the different roles of the cornett. In his ensemble he has gathered together excellent players on their respective instruments. Together they deliver exciting performances of music that cannot fail to captivate an audience. It is particularly nice that this disc pays tribute to two of the greatest exponents of the art of playing the cornett.

Johan van Veen (© 2021)

Relevant links:


CD Reviews