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"Sentirete una canzonetta"

In Tabernae Musica

rec: May 2014, Armeno (NO), Palazzo Anchisi (Sala del torchio)
Tactus - TC 580002 ( 2016) (60'53")
Liner-notes: E/I; lyrics - no translations
Cover, track-list & booklet

anon (17th C): Cecona; Ciaccona; Monicha; Vincenzo CALESTANI (1589-after 1617): Damigella tutta bella; Giuseppe CENCI (Giuseppino del Badia) (17th C): Fuggi, fuggi; Andrea FALCONIERI (c1585-1656): Begl'occhi lucenti; O bellissimi capelli; Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643): Canzon II 2 canti; Giorgio MAINERIO (c1535-1582): [Schiarazzula marazzulla]; Tarquinio MERULA (c1595-1665): Folle ben chi si crede; Sentirete una canzonetta; Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643): S dolce il tormento (SV 332); Tommaso PACE da Perugia (17th C): Sta pur ben nostro bel fusto; Pellegrino POSSENTI (17th C): De' miei preghi tutt'altera; Enrico RADESCA di Foggia (?-1625): Sant la bell'istoria; Sy vos pretendeys; Giovanni Felice SANCES (1600-1679): Accenti queruli; Usurpator tiranno

Patrizia Durando, soprano; Donato Sansone, voice, recorder, crumhorn, harp, saz, percussion; Massimo Lombardi, oud, lute, archlute, theorbo, guitar; Massimo Sartori, recorder, viola da gamba; Silvano Arioli, harpsichord

This year (2017) is Monteverdi year: Claudio Monteverdi was born in 1567, 450 years ago. Many discs of his music have and will be released, sometimes within the context of his time. However, it seems unlikely that the music included in the programme recorded by In Tabernae Musica will be often performed on disc, let alone in concerts. The ensemble focuses on the more 'popular' music from the time of Monteverdi, the late 16th and the early 17th centuries.

There is a reason that this kind of music is not often performed: we know only the tip of the iceberg as most popular music was not published. That kind of music was handed down orally from one generation to the next. It was often not written down - many performers of this repertoire were probably not able to read and write anyway - and for the most part was entirely or partly improvised. What has come down to us is often probably a little more sophisticated, certainly if it is from the pen of composers who were also active in the field of what we call 'art music'. The track-list shows that there was no watershed between the two worlds.

A very popular song was La Monica. Various composers took it as the subject for variations, among them the anonymous composer included here (track 12). Frescobaldi even used it as the starting point for a mass. Fuggi Fuggi Fuggi da questo cielo by Giuseppe Cenci (Giuseppino del Badio) became known as Aria di Mantova; Biagio Marini used it as the subject of one of his sonatas. The melody found its way into Smetana's Vltava and the Israeli national anthem.

'Art music' had also its serious and more frivolous sides. Several composers wrote both madrigals and more light-hearted stuff, such as canzonettas and villanellas. Pieces of both genres were often included in one and the same collection. An example is Il secondo libro delle Canzonette Madrigali et Arie alla romana of Enrico Radesca di Foggia. Sy vos pretendeys has little in common with what was called a madrigal at the time. He is one of the lesser-known composers included here; most of his output consists of canzonettas.

Giovanni Felice Sances is one of the main representatives of the post-Monteverdi generation. He was one of the first who published pieces with the title of cantata (cantada). Two of them are Usurpator tiranno and Accenti queruli. The latter is based on a basso ostinato. This was a particularly popular form: numerous pieces - for instance by Monteverdi - are based on such a repeated bass pattern. Bassi ostinati could also be used for instrumental variations, especially the ciaconna (tracks 4 and 5).

Obviously in a programme like this dance music could not be omitted. Calestani's Damigella tutta bella is an example of a dance song. Giorgio Mainerio has become exclusively known for his dance music; ironically he was a priest. His Il primo libro de balli is one of the main sources of dance music from the second half of the 16th century. We hear one of his melodies which is mixed here with Schiarazzula marazzula, the fragment of a text that was reported to the Inquisition in 1624.

That certainly was not without a reason. As Massimo Lombardi writes in his liner-notes about the programme: "[This] is a musical portrait of a taste that combines sophistication with vulgarity; (...) ethical characteristics with immoral ones". From that perspective it is probably just as well that the lyrics - which have to be downloaded from the Tactus site - are only given in the original language. Sometimes it is a good thing that no translations are available to innocent ears...

If you want to hear something rare and are not afraid of a style of singing and playing less sophisticated than you are used to hear, this is a disc to investigate. The programme is very entertaining, and the artists deliver engaging interpretations. The more serious items come off pretty well, although Patrizia Durando seems to feel a little less comfortable in that kind of repertoire. Her ornamentation, in particular, is not always convincing. I am also a bit surprised that she sings Monteverdi's S dolce il tormento pretty strict in time.

Although this disc probably was not consciously connected with the celebrations of Monteverdi's birth, it is a most interesting and original contribution to it.

Johan van Veen ( 2017)

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