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Peeter CORNET (c.1560-1633)
Keyboard Music

Toccata Noni toni (1) [3.24]
Fantasia Primi toni (2) [10.27]
Courante (13) [1.37]
Courante (12) [6.30]
Fantasia Octavi toni (5) [3.43]
Fantasia Octavi toni (6) [2.24]
Fantasia Secundi toni (3) [10.03]
Fantasia Octavi toni (7) [6.14]
Tantum Ergo (11) [3.00]
Salve Regina (10) [12.06]*
Fantasia Noni toni (8) [10.33]
Fantasia Quinti toni sopra Ut Re Mi Fa Sol La (fragment) (4) [4.17]
James Johnstone (harpsichord and organ)
The Cardinallís Musick/Andrew Carwood*
Recorded in St Martinís Church, East Woodhay, February 2002 (tracks 1-5), Sint Martinuskerk, Cuijk, September 2002 (tracks 6-12) and the Fitzalan Chapel, Arundel Castle, November 2002
GAUDEAMUS CD GAU 335 [74.18]


Peeter Cornetís biography is shrouded in Flanders mist and almost as precarious as his preserved manuscripts. He was born circa 1560 and could conjecturally be the Cornet mentioned as a singer in Spain in the last quarter of the sixteenth century. Certainly he reappeared in Brussels as court organist in the early 1600s and was also a colleague of the exiled Englishman Peter Philips, who acted as godfather to one of Cornetís children. He seems not to have written any choral music though he shares with Sweelinck a mastery of keyboard technique and texture. He died in 1633 says James Johnstone in his own notes to which Iím indebted for this brief summary, as does Grove, though the printers have appended the date 1626 by mistake.

Cornetís music exists in three sources, though that in Krakow is by far the most rich; there are two pieces in Oxford but only one is performed on this disc. Both the pieces in Berlin are here. Recorded in a pleasingly close-up perspective allows one to admire, once again, Johnstoneís acute understanding in this repertoire. He has shown similar authority in his Gibbons and Pasquini discs for ASV. Itís also sensible to divide the harpsichord and the organ performances into two blocks rather than intersperse them throughout the recital. It makes sense to start with the driving Toccata Noni toni (1) Ė the bracketed numbers refer to the particular compositions Ė which perfectly illustrates Cornetís driving flourish. His polythematic control can be heard in Fantasia Primi toni (2) with its intensity reinforced by powerful lyric contour and a sure architectural sense. Johnstoneís trills and left-hand weight are acutely judged here. The second Courante (12) is reminiscent of English procedures Ė Cornet mixed freely with English composers such as Philips and conjecturally Bull and so would have been familiar with the style Ė and its textual sense of sophistication is impressive, its build up of passacaglia-like tension memorably conceived.

From the Fantasia Octavi toni (6) onwards Johnstone plays on the Severijn organ of Sint Martinuskerk, Cuijk whereas before heíd played earlier on a fine sounding Lodewyk Theewes harpsichord (London, 1579). He cultivates some rich registrations in the concise but polythematically rich Fantasia Octavi toni (7) and lends impressive sweep to the extensive Fantasia Noni toni (8); it bears the unmistakeable power of intimate grandeur. Whereas the final work, cannily chosen, is the extrovert Fantasia Quinti toni sopra Ut Re Mi Fa Sol La (4), a fragment. We also have the contributions of The Cardinallís Musick directed by Andrew Carwood in the Salve Regina, a compact Marian antiphon. Itís performed as it would have been for evening benediction.

This is a fine piece of reclamation of a composer whose name is more footnote than performed, more tangential than solid. Perhaps that will now change. Full notes are accompanied by details of the two instruments. The harpsichord is by a Dutch maker, a Protestant who fled to England, whilst we have full specifications of the organ.

Jonathan Woolf

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