musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Angelo BERARDI (1636 - 1694): Sinfonie Opera Settima

Mauro Valli, cello; Varini Moretto, double bass; Giangiacomo Pinardi, theorbo; Margret Kll, arpa doppia; Sergio Ciomei, harpsichord, organ

rec: 2009, Sant'Agata Feltria, Chiesa di Francesco della Rosa
deutsche harmonia mundi - 88679-93611-2 ( 2011) (53'25")
Liner-notes: E/D/F/I
Cover & track-list

Canzone I 'Chi la f, l'aspetti'; Canzone II 'Il Mondo va in giro'; Canzone III 'Dal Moto h vita'; Canzone IV 'Nell'incostanza fedel sar'; Canzone V 'Ostinato 'l mio pensiero'; Canzone VI 'Capriccio per camera'

Sources: Sinfonie a violino solo, op. 7, 1670

It was a matter of coincidence that the Italian cellist Mauro Valli discovered the collection of pieces he has recorded on this disc. In 2007 he received a phone call by the then mayor that he was chosen to be a honorary citizen of Sant'Agata Feltria. He was also advised to have a look at a composer from that city who lived in the 17th century and was called Angelo Berardi. Valli had never heard of him before. He then did some research and found the six Canzoni which were printed as the Sinfonie a violino solo op. 7 in Bologna in 1670. He was immediately struck by the quality of the music and enthused some of his colleagues to play them. This has resulted in the present recording of the complete set.

Who was Angelo Berardi? He was born in Sant'Agata around 1636. According to New Grove "it is yet to be established from which of the many S Agatas in Italy he originated". Either that riddle is solved or the reference by the mayor was a matter of wishful thinking. It is known that he was a pupil of Marco Scacchi. Berardi is especially known for his theoretical writings; he is considered one of the most important theorists in Italy from the second half of the 17th century. One of the main aspects of his theoretical writings is his systematic treatment of counterpoint. His treatises suggest that he was rather conservative as he refers to composers like Palestrina and even Josquin Desprez. He accepted the seconda prattica, though, but didn't consider it modern in opposition to the 'old' prima prattica. He rather felt that they coexisted.

As a composer he wrote mainly vocal music, mostly sacred pieces. The Sinfonie op. 7 seem to be his only collection of instrumental works. Unfortunately the liner-notes are pretty poor. It is notable that the title-page uses the word sinfonia whereas the six individual pieces are called canzone. They also have a title as the header of this review shows. I would have liked the liner-notes to give some information about what these titles may be about. The canzoni show a great amount of irregularity in the number and the character of the movements. The Canzone V has just four movements, the Canzone VI eight. Some movements are quite dramatic, in particular the balletti which are included in all but one of the canzoni. A striking example is the balletto from the Canzone II. This is followed by a fugal movement, called 'canzone allegro'. The various 'grave' movements are among the most expressive. Some movements have a striking cantabile character. The Canzone V has a third movement with the indication tremolo which refers to the voce humana stop in Italian organs which was especially used for toccate all'elevazione in mass. The Canzone VI is certainly the most remarkable. It begins with a movement called arcate (arch), followed by a corrente francese. Then follows tempo furio di sarabanda presto, like a very short outburst of rage, lasting just 12 seconds, and then the quiet atmosphere of the corrente returns in a balletto grave. We then get a movement called cromatico. The last three movements are tempo di gagliarda, tempo ineguale - tempo inglese and lastly allegro. Perfidia replicata - aria todesca - adagio. These are the kind of things which one expects to be explained in liner-notes.

It needs to be noted that these pieces were written for violin and bc. But Mauro Valli is a cellist, and therefore he chose to play them on the cello, or rather the cello piccolo. In the booklet it is argued that in the baroque era it was perfectly legitimate to play music on another instrument than indicated by the composer. Not every example used is convincing, but there is no reason to deny the claim of legitimacy. In this respect I would like to refer to an interesting example from the 18th century, when the Italian cellist Giacobbe Basevi Cervetto, after his move to London, published a set of sonatas for two cellos and bc, and indicated that they could be played on violins as well. So there is no reason why violin sonatas could not be played on the cello.

There is every reason to be happy about the discovery of Berardi's six canzoni by Mauro Valli. He was struck by the quality of the music and I share his enthusiasm. This is very good and often even exciting music, full of surprises, and deserves to be performed and recorded. I would wish that violinists are going to include them in their repertoire as well. A recording with violin would be most welcome. Let's hope that such a performance will be as good as that by Valli and his colleagues. Their playing is imaginative and full of zest. There is no restraint whatsoever. Only now and then I felt that they were exaggerating a little, for instance in the closing movement of Canzone I. The scoring of the basso continuo helps to bring about the character of every single piece.

Johan van Veen ( 2012)

Relevant links:

Mauro Valli

CD Reviews