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"Musica al tempo del Guercino e dei suoi allievi"

Alena Dantcheva, sopranoa; Michele Andaḷ, altob
Dir: Saverio Villa

rec: July 16 - 20, 2010, Bargi (BO), Chiesa dei Santi Giacomo e Cristoforo
Stradivarius - Str 33932 (© 2013) (43'56")
Liner-notes: E/I; lyrics - translations: E/I
Cover & track-list

Giovanni Battista BASSANI (c1650-1716): Sonata a 3 in D [6]; Giovanni Maria BONONCINI (1642-1678): Sonata a 3 in g minor, op. 1,7 [5]; Maurizio CAZZATI (1616-1678): Sonata a 3 'La Ranuzza' [1]; Giovanni LEGRENZI (1626-1690): Sonata a 3 'La Bonacossa' [4]; Biagio MARINI (1587-1665): Sonata I sopra 'Fuggi dolente core' [3]; Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643): Confitebor a Voce sola con violini (SV 193)a [2]; Alessandro STRADELLA (1639-1682): O vos omnes qui transitis, motetto a contralto solo con strumentib; Sonata a 3 in C

[1] Maurizio Cazzati, Il secondo libro delle sonate a vna, doi, tre e quattro, op. 8, 1648; [2] Claudio Monteverdi, Messa a quattro e salmi a 1, 2, 3 ..., 1650; [3] Biagio Marini, Per ogni sorte di strumento musicale diversi generi di sonate, da chiesa, e da camera op. 22, 1655; [4] Giovanni Legrenzi, Sonate a 2, 3, 5 e 6 istromenti libro 3°, op. 8, 1663; [5] Giovanni Maria Bononcini, Primi frutti del giardino musicale a due violini di Gio. Maria Bononcini, 1666; [6] Giacomo Monti, ed, Scielta delle suonate a due violini, con il basso continuo per l'organo, raccolte da diversi eccelenti autori, 1680

Luca Giardini, Liana Mosca, violin; Marco Testori, cello; Giangiacomo Pinardi, theorbo, guitar; Saverio Villa, organ

This disc documents the new style which emerged in Italian music during the 17th century. In his liner-notes Saverio Villa juxtaposes the "equilibirium" of the style of the late renaissance with the virtuosity of the baroque and the important place of affetti. The former was dominated by counterpoint in which all voices were equal. In the baroque style the upper voices draw all the attention through the exploration of the features of the instruments, especially the violin. Whereas the stile antico of the renaissance was 'objective', as it were, the affetti resulted in the music of the 17th century being highly subjective.

Another interesting aspect is the relationship between vocal and instrumental music. In the renaissance instruments were held in higher esteem the better they were able to imitate the human voice. In the 17th century instrumental music became more independent towards the voice and vocal music. Even so there is a clear connection between them. Many vocal parts are just as florid and virtuosic as instrumental parts, especially when they are ornamented according to the rules of the time. In this respect there was no fundamental difference between sacred and secular music, other than the text. That tendency continues in the 18th century, when motets by, for instance, Vivaldi are hardly distinguishable from the chamber cantatas of his time.

The programme includes specimens of trio sonatas which reflect the virtuosity of and focus on the upper voices. As the timings indicate they are mostly rather short, but comprise between three and five movements of a strongly contrasting character. Alongside sonatas with free invented material some pieces are based on a tune or song which was quite popular at the time. Fuggi dolente core is one of them; this song dates from the late 16th century and was also known as La Mantovana. The melody found its way into Smetana's Vltava (the Moldau) and the Israeli national anthem. What exactly the titles of the sonatas by Cazzati and Legrenzi refer to is not known.

The two vocal items show the influence of the new virtuosic and expressive style. Monteverdi's Confitebor a Voce sola con violini is a piece in which voice and violins are fully integrated and imitate each other. It is one of Monteverdi's most famous pieces; it ends with a figure in the violin which is then repeated by the voice without accompaniment.

Stradella is stylistically of a later generation. The title of the motet O vos omnes is well-known: the text has been frequently set as a responsory for Holy Week. Here it is only used for the opening recitative; the other recitatives and the arias are on free poetic texts. The word 'recitative' doesn't imply the form we know from the 18th century. It is accompanied and has the character of an arioso rather than a recitative in a more or less free rhythm.

The title of this disc refers to a painter of the 17th century whose early paintings were characterised by naturalism but who later adopted a more balanced style. This could probably be considered as a reflection of the state of music in the 17th century as well. The stile nuovo didn't reign supreme at the music scene. During the whole 17th century counterpoint still played an important part in composition.

The performances are strongly gestural, exploring the contrasts to the full. Some shifts between two movements are very abrupt, and these come off well here. Alena Dantcheva and Michele Andaḷ give fine accounts of the two vocal items. The expression in Stradella's cantata is not lost on Andaḷ, and Dantcheva deals with the virtuosic ornamentation in Monteverdi's sacred concertos with impressive ease.

The only disappointment is the short playing time. The reason for that is a mystery to me. There is certainly no lack of repertoire.

Johan van Veen (© 2013)

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