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Giovanni CROCE (1557-1609)
Carnevale Veneziano:
Mascarate piacevoli et ridicolose per il carnevale
Triaca Musicale

I Fagiolini
CHANDOS CHAN 0665 [75:34]
Crotchet    Amazon UK    Amazon US

Here is carnival fun, colourful and often bawdy. This recording includes two sets of comic carnival masquerades by the Venetian composer, Giovanni Croce. Croce was a singer at the Basilica of St Marks, the private chapel of the Duke of Venice. The basilica adjoins the ducal palace at the edge of the Venetian Lagoon and an appointment there was one of the most prestigious in Europe. The musicians of St Mark's formed a pool of expert composers, singers and instrumentalists who actively participated in local theatrical and entertainment enterprises in order to supplement their incomes. In the 1590s, Croce was leader of a singing company, at St Mark's, that was for hire. He enjoyed a lively reputation as a popular entertainer so it is likely that he and his company were the original performers of these masquerades.

Mascarate piacevole et ridicolose per il carnevale and Triaca Musicale were performed in costumes and masks probably as banquet entertainments or insertions in theatrical productions. They were full of wit and satire. Croce draws upon the Venetian madrigal style but mixes music from popular traditions including street tunes. His masquerades are replete with musical clichés and gestures that encourage full imaginative interpretation such as echo effects, stuttering, shouts, and over-the-top repetition. Stock commedia dell'arte characters are on-stage including the pompous Pantalone and the bumbling old Bolognese professor, Dr Grazziano whose mispronounced words result in coarse gaffes. Shrill women, oafish foreigners, ribald farmers, quarrelling birds, misinterpreted echoes all cause occasion for merriment.

Sandwiched between the songs are some delightful instrumental interludes performed on lutes, chitarrone, guitar, mandola, and harpsichord.

A bonus track gives some idea of the intended wit and mirrors one of the masquerade's numbers (Masquerade of Magnifici's Echo). It is modern parody, in English, by Timothy Knapman. Here are a few verses to give you some idea of its wit:-

…Now if you'll pardon me, I must visit
A girl from Roma whose sweet aroma is quite exquisite
Echo: Is it?
Of course it is, you dare to doubt? At her feet I'll lay my heart.
A great romance will follow from this start
Echo: This tart!
How dare you She's a high born beauty with an acute wit.
Echo Twit
What you'll never understand. The thing that binds a man and his ex -
Echo Is sex!

- Of course the man is alone and is listening to his own echo!

A very entertaining comic album performed with great verve and wit - heartily recommended

Ian Lace

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