Seicento Stravagante BIS 2526

Music for Cornetto and Keyboard
Seicento Stravagante
rec. 2019/20, Chiesa Parrocchiale di Monte San Giovanni, Bologna; Chiesa du San Martino Vescovo, Vescia, Perugia; Chiesa di San Bartolomeo, Caprile, Belluno, Italy
Reviewed as a stereo 16/44 download
BIS BIS-2526 [64]

The cornett holds an important place in the music of the 16th and 17th centuries. In the 16th century, which was dominated by the stile antico, it was part of an ensemble of cornetts and sackbuts which supported the voices, playing colla voce. Around 1600 the seconda pratica emerged. One of its features was a greater independence of instruments: composers started to write vocal music with separate parts for instruments. Another feature was instrumental virtuosity: canzonas and sonatas were written for one or a couple of instruments and basso continuo, sometimes even for a particular instrument, such as the violin and the cornett. The latter was especially popular for its vocal character. There are various similarities between the voice and the cornett. Both are able to produce a variety of colours and have a wide dynamic range. Their agility and their capability of a precise and detailed articulation made them both ideally suited to perform music which often included extensive virtuosic coloratura and ornamentation.

The disc under review offers a survey of the various genres in vogue in the 17th century in Italy. In most of the pieces included here, the composers have left it to the discretion of the performer to choose the instrument. Many collections include phrases such as con ogni sorte di stromenti – “with all kinds of instruments”. That is the case with Frescobaldi’s Canzon III detta La Lucchesina. The Sonata I by Castello is for Sopran Solo, which can be any instrument in the treble range. (The track-list says it is from the first book of 1621, but in fact it is from the second of 1629). In his only printed edition of sonatas, Giovanni Battista Fontana explicitly mentions the violin and the cornett as alternatives. The same as does Biagio Marini in the Sonata per organo e violino o cornetto, which concludes the programme.

Sonatas and canzonas were the main genres of instrumental music. Originally, the canzona was based on vocal music, such as Andrea Gabrieli’s Canzon francese detta Qui la dira. The word is derived from chanson, and Qui la dira is the title of a chanson by Adrian Willaert. With time, it developed into a more independent form, not fundamentally different from the sonata. An example is Frescobaldi’s Canzon III. In this piece. The composer makes use of echo effects, which were quite popular at the time: motifs are repeated piano.

Diminutions represented a genre that was particularly popular among instrumental virtuosos. They took a line – mostly the upper voice – of a vocal piece (motet, madrigal, chanson) and broke up the long notes into smaller ones, and added ornaments of their own invention. One of the representatives of this genre was Francesco Rognoni Taeggio; here we hear his diminutions on Palestrina’s motet Pulchra es, amica mea. Riccardo Rognoni took Thomas Crecquillon’s chanson Ung gay berger as the subject of diminutions, Girolamo della Casa used Orlandus Lassus’s chanson Susanne un jour. The connection between cornett and voice is demonstrated in a song by Angelo Notari, Ahi, che s’acresce in me. It is taken from a collection in which the composer indicates, in the case of another song, that it may either be played or sung.

Diminutions were originally improvised, and the above-mentioned composers published treatises with instructions on how to make one’s own diminutions. Performers were also expected to add their own ornamentation when they played pieces written by others. David Brutti, the ensemble’s cornettist, does not miss the opportunities to show his skills in this department. An example is the Sinfonia 13 by Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger. It is taken from a collection of sinfonias for four voices, but this piece has the indication à un Canto. Keyboard players were equally expected to improvise, for instance in church during the mass. Part of the skills they needed to master was the realization of the basso continuo. This was also the subject of instruction, for instance through exercises, known as partimenti. An example is the anonymous Canzona su partimento, played by Nicola Lamon at the organ. He also plays some toccatas, one of the main genres of keyboard music, which had marked improvisational traces.

Together, these two artists present an instructive and compelling survey of what was written in Italy in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. It was a time of experimentation in the field of instrumental techniques, improvisation and the expression of affetti. No wonder that the repertoire from this period attracts so much attention. There is no lack of recordings, and most of the composers included here are well represented on disc. That goes in particular for Castello, Fontana and Marini. However, there are also some pieces here which are lesser-known, and the fine playing of these two artists is another reason why those who have a special interest in this repertoire, should not hesitate to add this disc to their collection. It is nice that Brutti plays three different cornetts. Especially the difference between the straight and the mute cornetto is clearly demonstrated here (tracks 13 and 14 respectively).

Johan van Veen

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Giovanni Battista Fontana (1571-1630)
Sonata III
Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643)
Canzon III detta La Lucchesina
Annibale Padovano (1527-1575)
Toccata del 6° tono
Dario Castello (?-1658)
Sonata I [1628]
Andrea Gabrieli (1533-1585)
Canzon francese detta Qui la dira (Willaert)
Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger (c1580-1651)
Sinfonia 13
Andrea Falconieri (c1585-1656)
La Monarca
Riccardo Rognoni (c1550-bef. 1620)
Ung gay berger (Crecquillon)
Angelo Notari (1566-1663)
Ahi, che s’ascresce in me
Canzona su partimento
Girolamo dalla Casa (?-1601)
Susanne un jour (Lassus)
Giovanni Salvatore (1611-1688)
Toccata II del 9° tono
Giovanni Martino Cesare (c1590-1667)
La Foccarina
Francesco Rognoni Taeggio (after 1580-after 1626)
Pulchra es, amica mea (Palestrina)
Giovanni Battista Fontana
Sonata II
Biagio Marini (1594-1663)
Sonata per organo e violino o cornetto [Op 8]