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Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567 - 1643): "Travestimenti"

Il Pegaso
Dir: Maurizio Croci

rec: August 22 - 24, 2014, Peglio, Chiesa dei SS. Eusebio e Vittore
fra bernardo - fb 1602374 (© 2016) (58'43")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - no translations
Cover, track-list & booklet

Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643): Canzona IIIf [4]; Partite sopra ciacconaf [4]; Toccata VI, sopra i pedalif [4]; Alessandro GRANDI (1586-1630): Salvum me facd [5,6]; Claudio MONTEVERDI: Ballo del Monteverdi (after Ballo delle ingrate, SV 167)e [8]; Cantate Domino (SV 292)ab [2]; Ecce panis angelorum (after Chiome d'oro, SV 143)bcd; Jesum viri senesque (after Vaga su spina ascosa, SV 134)bcd [6]; Lasciatemi morire (after Lamento d'Arianna, SV 22)e; Longe, mi Jesu (after Parlo, miser, o taccio, SV 136)bcd [9]; O quam pulchra es (SV 317)a [3]; Occhi miei, se mirar più non debb'io (after Occhi miei, se mirar più non debb'io, SV 314)bcd; Prima vedrò che in questi prati nascano (after Prima vedrò che in questi prati nascano, SV 322)bcd; Quante stell'intorn'a l'aureo crine (after Quante son stelle in ciel, SV 324)abd; Questi vaghi concenti (SV 106) (intabulation)e; Spera in Domino (after Ecco di dolci raggi il sol armato, SV 249: Io che armato)b [7]; Vespro della Beata Vergine (SV 206) (Duo Seraphim)abd [1]; Ercole PASQUINI (c1560-c1619): Durezzef; Toccataf

Sources: [1] Claudio Monteverdi, Sanctissimæ Virigni Missa senis vocibus ac Vesperæ pluribus decantandæ, 1610; [2] Giovanni Battista Bonometti, ed., Parnassus musicus Ferdinandeus, 1615; [3] Leonardo Simonetti, ed, Ghirlanda Sacra, 1625; [4] Girolamo Frescobaldi, Secondo libro di toccate, 1627; [5] Alessandro Grandi, Cantiones Sacrae, 1629; Ambrosius Profe, [6] Erster Theil Geistlicher Concerten und Harmonien auß den berühmbtesten italianischen und andern Autoribus, 1641; [7] Dritter Theil Geistlicher Concerten und Harmonien auß den berühmbtesten italianischen und andern Autoribus, 1642; [8] Pietro Milioni, Lodovico Monte, ed., Parnassus musicus Vero e facil modo d'imparare a sonare ... la chitarra spagnola, 1647; [9] Ambrosius Profe, Corollarium Geistlicher Collectaneorum, 1649

Mirko Guadagninia, Makoto Sakuradab, Raffaele Giordanic, tenor; Christian Immler, bassd; Evangelina Mascardi, theorbo (soloe; Maurizio Croci, organ (solof)

Adapting vocal music to a different text has been common practice since the Middle Ages. It was mostly secular music which was used for a sacred text. Among the best-known examples of such a practice are some of the cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach, which were first conceived as secular works for special occasions. The present disc focuses on this practice of creating contrafacta - to use the technically correct term - at the time of Claudio Monteverdi. One of the main authors of such adaptations was Aquilino Coppini (?-1629). "Music drawn from madrigals and rendered spiritual" - that is the definition he gave to the kind of music which is the subject of this disc. Some years ago Tactus released a disc with such travestimenti - as they are called on the frontispiece of the present disc - of madrigals by Andrea Gabrieli and Claudio Monteverdi. The originals were madrigals written in the stile antico. In a way the present disc is its counterpart as here the original pieces root in the monodic style, which emerged around 1600 and of which Monteverdi was an enthusiastic advocate.

The reasons for the creation of contrafacta are various. In Bach's case it was mainly that he needed music and the music he had written for special occasions was too good to be performed just once. In the time of Monteverdi there was a different reason. We are in the time of the Counter Reformation, which was a movement of spiritual renewal, inspired by the Reformation, whose figureheads criticised the worldly lifestyle of many representatives of the church. The Council of Trent decided to banish secular elements from the liturgy and the Church took an increasingly critical stance towards (secular) music in general.

The sacred contrafacta reflect the spirit of the Counter Reformation. The music editor and composer Giovanni Giovenale Ancina put it this way: "[In] many different sorts of works, not only vocal, of various more or less famous authors of our time (...) charming, profane texts are replaced by good, honest, devout and pious ones whilst their melodies are retained, only slightly altered if at all. Thus everyone, even religious persons (..) may enjoy these melodies without fear of scandal and be decently entertained." It is not entirely clear what the Church thought about this practice. The fact that the above-mentioned Coppini dedicated his adaptations to the archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Federico Borromeo, suggests that the church acknowledged the importance of music and was willing to use it for the dissemination of its own message, overlooking the profane roots of the contrafacta.

Although one cannot exclude that some of these were sung during the liturgy, it seems likely that they were intended for performance in domestic surroundings in the first place. That certainly is the case with pieces on an Italian text. Some madrigals were only slightly altered anyway. The present disc includes Monteverdi's madrigal Prima vedrò che in questi prati nascano, in which only one phrase was reworded: "per Clori anima mia" was changed into "per te dolce Gesù". In other cases the original text was completely replaced by a new one, mostly in Latin; an example is Ecce panis angelorum, an adaptation of the madrigal Chiome d'oro.

The pieces included here have either been preserved in manuscript or were included in four volumes of sacred concertos by Italian composers, which the German music editor and composer Ambrosius Profe from Breslau published in the 1640s (Geistliche Concerten und Harmonien, 1641-46). These editions include 43 contrafacta, and these were intended for the German market they obviously are all on Latin texts.

This also has consequences for the way they are performed. In Germany these pieces may have been performed in church, and that justifies the accompaniment of a larger organ. Such an organ is used here, but its Italian sound and disposition makes it a less logical choice for the pieces taken from Profe's editions. In contrast, as the pieces on Italian texts were certainly not intended for liturgical use, there the use of a church organ is hardly appropriate.

That is one of the debatable aspects of this disc. The other is that the performers have included too many pieces which have little or nothing to do with the main subject of this disc. That obviously goes in particular for the organ pieces, but also for the intabulations, such as Lasciatemi morire, based on the opening of Monteverdi's famous Lamento d'Arianna. But the programme also includes several original sacred pieces, such as Alessandro Grandi's Salvum me fac. The programme ends with the concerto Duo Seraphim from Monteverdi's Vespro della Beata Vergine. As much as I understand the wish of the singers to perform this magnificent piece, it has nothing to do with the contrafactum practice and is also very well known. I would have liked the performers to stay closer to their chosen subject.

All in all the performances are pretty good. The text is given much attention and is clearly intelligible. Sometimes the tempo is a bit too slow, such as in Ballo del Monteverde. In Grandi's Salvum me fac both the highest and the lowest notes cause Christian Immler some problems. I would also like some stronger dynamic accents. The organ is a very fine instrument, and Maurizio Croci lays it well. This is certainly a disc worth being investigated, but I would like a more thorough exploration of a repertoire which has been given too little attention to date.

Johan van Veen (© 2017)

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