In 17th-century Italy the cornett and the violin were in
competition as to which of the two was the most expressive
instrument. In the first half of the century the winner
was the cornett, as it was better suited to imitate the
human voice than the violin. The cornett was often used
- mostly in combination with sackbuts - to support singers,
but also as a substitute for the human voice, in particular
in sacred music.
But these two instruments were also often used together,
and many compositions were written for either cornett or
violin. And then there were pieces to be played 'con ogni
sorti stromenti', with all kinds of instruments, which leaves
the choice to the performer. And even without an addition
like that, composers were often very flexible as far as
instrumentation is concerned. Many pieces written for a
specific instrument can be played on other instruments as
The ensemble Charivari Agréable aims at bringing to life
the variety in performance practice of music of the 17th
century. The programme on this disc is representative of
their programmes, both in concert and in recordings.
Features of the ensemble's performances are improvisation,
adaptation and arrangement, all with respect for what we
know about the performance practice of the 17th century.
The art of improvisation isn't only reflected in the ornamentation
in the pieces played here, but also in the choice of compositions:
in particular the diminutions on madrigals and motets are
examples of the kind of improvisation practice in the early
Examples of the practice of adaptation are to be found
here in pieces for lute and keyboard, which are treated
as compositions for an ensemble of instruments. In regard
to arrangement, this ensemble goes as far as composing new
pieces on the basis of existing compositions. On this disc
we find two examples of such pieces, called 'pastiches'
of ciaconas and bergamascas by several composers. The ciacona
and the bergamasca belonged to the most popular forms of
the 17th century.
These pastiches are the least satisfactory parts of this
recording, as they lack inner coherence because of the differences
between the compositions on which they are based. Otherwise
this is a most enjoyable disc, containing a mixture of lesser-known
pieces, and pretty well-known ones played in a rather unconventional
Every player of the ensemble is a virtuoso on his or her
instrument and the ensemble playing is immaculate and full
of vigour. As the repertoire never fails to fascinate because
of its sheer beauty and brilliance, this is definitely a
disc worth listening to.