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"La Giorgina - Diminutionen, Canzonen und Sonaten"

Hans-Jakob Bollingera, cornett; Christiane Lux, organ

rec: 3 - 6 July, 2005, Ponte, Valtellina (Switserland), Madonna della Campagna
Swiss Pan - SP51 721 (© 2005) (58'34")

Caterina Assandra (c1590-after 1618): Ego flos campi; Aurelio Bonelli (1569-1629): Ricercare III; Giovanni Battista Bovicelli (c1550-c1597): Angelus ad pastores aita (after De Rore); Girolamo dalla Casa (c1543-1601): Petit Jacqueta (after Jean Courtois); Giovanni Martino Cesare (1590-1667): Canzon La Foccarinaa, Canzon La Giorginaa; Giovanni Paolo Cima (1570-1622): Canzon La Morosa, Sonata per violinoa; Benedetto Ferrari (1603/04-1681): Ciaconaa; Giovanni Battista Fontana (?-c1630): Sonata Ia, Sonata VIa; Hans-Leo Haßler (1564-1612): Toccata in G; Giovanni Battista Riccio (1570-1630): Sonata La Rizzaa; Riccardo Rogniono (?-1619/20): Domine quando venerisa (after Da Palestrina); Johann Ulrich Steigleder (1593-1635): Canzon in C; Claudio Veggio (1510-1544): Ricercare del 1° tono

As Hans-Jakob Billinger states in the booklet the cornett was one of the most beloved instruments of the late 16th and early 17th century. Players of the instrument were in high esteem. In the prima prattica the cornett was often used in sacred music, to play either colla parte with one of the voices or to replace it. One of the reasons it was so much valued was its ability to imitate the human voice. When the seconda prattica arrived, and instrumental music started to develop into a genre of its own, the human voice was still seen as the top of the musical pyramid, and the cornett was still highly valued for the same reason as in the time of the prima prattica. In the early 17th century not only the style of composing changed, it also saw the development of independent instrumental music, which wasn't only based on vocal music anymore, and which was often very virtuosic. The cornett was one of the instruments which composers liked to write music for.

The music on this disc gives some idea about the repertoire for cornett in the late 16th and early 17th century. As only two instruments are used here, we don't get an example of the cornett in its supporting role in polyphonic music or as a replacement for the human voice. What we get here, though, are examples of another genre which was very popular: the diminution or ornamentation of a vocal line from a madrigal or a motet, in which a keyboard instrument - in this case the organ - plays the other parts. Several composers represented here composed a number of pieces in this style, which are often pretty virtuosic, and require great skills from the performer. The vocal music they used also gives some indication about which music was popular at the time and which composers were rated most highly.

The emancipation of instrumental music is reflected by the compositions of the early 17th century, which are mostly sonatas, ricercares or canzonas. And the disc closes with a ciacona, another musical form which was extremely popular in the 17th century. Many of these pieces are not specifically written for the cornett, and can also be played, for instance, on the violin. It is even possible to play a piece with either one instrument and keyboard or with keyboard only. That is demonstrated here in the two pieces by Cima, one of which is played on cornett and organ, whereas the other is performed on organ only.

Christiane Lux also plays some pieces specifically written for organ by composers from Italy and by two German composers. One of the most interesting features of this recording is the use of a historic organ rather than a chamber organ which is often used in this repertoire. The church where the recording was made has an Italian organ of the 16th century: it was built in 1518 by Marco Antonio Bizzari and further developed in 1589 by the Antegnato family. It is tuned to meantone temperament and the pitch is a'=453 Hz. It has a gorgeous sound and it is a most appropriate instrument for the repertoire played here. As a consequence of the pitch of the organ a cornett had to be made especially for this recording.

This disc is most interesting and enthralling as far as the repertoire and the use of this fine organ is concerned. Christiane Lux is playing very well, and the recording is well made, although the microphones were perhaps a little closer to the instruments than I would have preferred. I am not overly enthousiastic, though, about the playing of Hans-Jakob Bollinger. He does play well, but his performances are a bit stiff and artificial. Yes, we know the cornett is a difficult instrument to play, but we as listeners shouldn't hear that. And the many ornamentations don't come out very naturally and fluently as one is used to hear from players like Bruce Dickey or Jean Tubéry - to name only a couple of the best in the business. And often the sound isn't completely stable, which indicates slight problems in the breathing technique.
I would like to recommend this disc anyway, as it contains some pieces which are not very well-known, and because recordings of this kind of repertoire with an organ like the one played here are very rare.

Johan van Veen (© 2006)

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