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Bernardo PASQUINI (1637 - 1710): "Keyboard Music"

[I] "Sonate per gravecembalo"
Luca Guglielmi, harpsichorda, organb
rec: April 27 - 28, 2003, Cuceglio (Turin), Santuario della Beata Vergine Addolorataa; July 5, 2008, Corio (Turin), Chiesa di San Genesio Martireb
Stradivarius - Str 33959 ( 2013) (54'55")
Liner-notes: E/I
Cover & track-list

Aria seconda in C (Cekm 47/2)a; Fantasia 'la mi fa fa' in d minor (Cekm 1)a; Partite diverse di follia in d minor (Cekm 61)a; Passagagli in C 'Per Petronilla' (Cekm 67)a; Passagagli in g minor (Cekm 69)a; Pastorale in G (Cekm 138)ba; Ricercare 'in D. sol re' in d minor (Cekm 4)a; Suite in D 'Per lo Scozzese' (Cekm 23)a; Suite in e minor 'Per l'Inglese di Scozia' (Cekm 22)a; Toccata 'Con Lo Scherzo Del Cucco' in A (Cekm 81)a; Toccata 'Per Francia' in a minor (Cekm 99)a; Toccata in g minor (Cekm 103)a; Toccata in C (Cekm 104)a; Toccata in c minor 'Per lo Scozzese'a; Variazioni in C 'Per la medesima' (Cekm 60)a

[II] "Sonatas for two organs"
Luca Scandali, organ; Hadrien Jourdan, organc, harpsichordd
rec: Oct 29 - 31, 2012, Sant'Elpidio a Mare (Fermo), Basilica di Santa Maria della Misericordia
Brilliant Classics - 94347 ( 2013) (72'10")
Liner-notes: E/I
Cover & track-list

Sonata No. 1 in Dc; Sonata No. 2 in Cd; Sonata No. 3 in d minorc; Sonata No. 4 in B flatc; Sonata No. 5 in b minorc; Sonata No. 6 in e minorc; Sonata No. 7 in Fc; Sonata No. 8 in g minord; Sonata No. 9 in c minorc; Sonata No. 10 in e minorc; Sonata No. 11 in g minord; Sonata No. 12 in B flatc; Sonata No. 13 in a minorc; Sonata No. 14 in g minord

Bernardo Pasquini was generally considered the most brilliant keyboard player in Italy in the second half of the 17th century, comparable with Frescobaldi in the first half. He was born in Pistoia and moved to Rome in 1650. Here he spent the rest of his life, although he made various appearances abroad. He performed for Louis XIV in Paris and at the imperial court in Vienna during the reign of Leopold I. His reputation crossed the borders of Italy: he attracted many pupils from all over Europe, such as Johann Philipp Krieger and Georg Muffat.

In Rome he played a key role in musical life and enjoyed the patronage of Queen Christina of Sweden and the Cardinals Orroboni and Pamphili. He regularly worked together with Arcangelo Corelli who also was the leader of the orchestra in a performance of one of Pasquini's operas. In 1706 Pasquini became a member of the Arcadian Academy, founded in 1690. He wrote a considerable number of vocal works, especially operas and oratorios. Unfortunately most of the latter are lost. It is interesting to note that not only was he influenced by Frescobaldi but also studied the oeuvre of Palestrina extensively.

Despite his reputation as a keyboard player and composer few of his keyboard works have been published during his lifetime. The largest part has come down to us in two manuscripts which are preserved in Berlin and London respectively. In the 1960s the first edition of his complete keyboard music was printed. It shows great variety in forms: toccatas - clearly influenced by Frescobaldi -, suites of dances, partite (sequences of variations) and passacagli. Luca Guglielmi has recorded a programme which includes specimens of the different genres.

It is especially in the toccatas that the influence of Frescobaldi comes to the fore. These are pieces in improvisatory style, often beginning in a slow tempo and then speeding up, following the instructions Frescobaldi added to his compositions in this genre. One of the toccatas is based on the imitation of the cuckoo, which was very popular in the 17th century. The same goes for pieces on a basso ostinato; Guglielmi plays two passagagli. A third genre which we also find in Frescobaldi's oeuvre is that of the variation. Guglielmi plays Variazioni in C and Partite diverse di follia. The latter is on a pattern which frequently returns in the baroque period, for instance in the last of Corelli's violin sonatas op. 5 and in Vivaldi's trio sonatas op. 1. There is also a 'modern' element in Pasquini's oeuvre: the suite. Pasquini introduced this French form to Italy, although he didn't strictly follow the texture as had become common in France and Germany. The two suites in the present programme have no sarabanda. They begin with an alemanda, which is followed by a corrente and a giga. The suites close with a bizzarria. These suites are pretty short; the last two movements take less than a minute each.

Guglielmi plays a Pastorale as a bonus track. It is the only piece which is played on the organ. This reflects Pasquini's activities as an organist. The Pastorale is a genre which was also popular in Italy, often associated with Christmastide and imitating the flutes of the shepherds.

This is a nice disc whose programme is largely different from that which was recorded by Roberto Loreggian for Chandos. Luca Guglielmi is a busy man who has produced several discs lately. This programme was largely recorded in 2003 and as far as I know has not been released before. That is rather odd, as Pasquini's music is not that well represented in the catalogue. His oeuvre is versatile and compelling, and so is Guglielmi's interpretation. He uses a copy of a beautiful late 17th-century Italian harpsichord, whereas the organ dates from 1752. I only regret that this disc is so short.

Pasquini wrote two treatises, one of them has been lost. It is quite possible that the sonatas which are the subject of the second disc were written as educational material. Pasquini wrote two sets of fourteen sonatas each, for one and two keyboards respectively. Instead of writing them out he provided only basso continuo lines which have to be worked out during performance. The sonatas for two keyboards have been recorded before by Attilio Cremonesi and Alessandro de Marchi (Symphonia, 1992); I am not aware of any recording of the sonatas for one keyboard. The fact that the players have to work out the bassi continui themselves obviously results in varying performances.

A comparison between the timings shows quite some differences. More importantly - and making this disc a valuable alternative to the Symphonia disc - is the choice of instruments. Cremonesi and De Marchi played two harpsichords, Scandali and Jourdan play most of the sonatas at two large organs from the 18th century. Many Italian churches of that time had two organs at the opposing sides of the choir: one on the 'epistle side', and therefore called the 'Epistle organ', and one at the 'gospel side' - the 'Gospel organ'. This allows a dialogue between the two instruments which is especially effective if one listens with headphones. These two organs in the Basilica di Santa Maria della Misericordia in Sant'Elpidio a Mare date from 1757 and 1785 respectively. The former was built by Pietro Nacchini, the latter by the famous organ builder Gaetano Callido. This organ was not originally constructed for this church, but first placed in the Benedictine nunnery. Both instruments are in unequal tuning which manifests itself regularly during performance, and which makes them all the more interesting and spicy. Also interesting is the combination of one of the organs with the harpsichord. The latter is a copy of an instrument built in 1789 by Ignazio Mucciardi which is part of the collection of Luigi Ferdinando Tagliavini in Bologna.

I am happy with the Symphonia disc, but I am also glad to add this disc to my collection. Not only do the two organists deliver inspired and sparkling performances, the organs produce a gorgeous sound, thanks to the variety of registers which the two artists have used. This disc offers more than 70 minutes of pure joy. Don't miss it.

Johan van Veen ( 2014)

Relevant links:

Luca Guglielmi
Hadrien Jourdan
Luca Scandali

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