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La Voce nel Violino
Giovanni Paolo CIMA (c.1570 - 1630)
Sonata per il Violino [3:41]
Giovanni Marco UCCELLINI (c.1603 - 1680)
La Luciminia Contenta [3:48]
Giovanni Battista FONTANA (1589? - 1630?)
Sonata II [6:41]
Giovanni Paolo CIMA
Sonata per Cornetto, over Violino [4:43]
Giovanni Battista FONTANA
Sonata III [4:00]
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567 - 1643)
Mentre vaga angioletta, madrigal [8:32]
Richardo ROGNONI (c.1550 - 1620)
Ancor che col partire, passeggiato [3:16]
Dario CASTELLO (1st half 17th Century)
Sonata II [5:20]
Carlo GESUALDO da Venosa (c.1561 - 1613)
Asciugate i begli occhi [3:31]
Giovanni BASSANO (1560/61 - 1617)
Ricercata II [1:51]
Armato il cor d'adamantina fede [2:29]
Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583 - 1643)
Se l'aura spira [2:44]
Giovanni Antonio PANDOLFO MEALLI (fl 1660 - 1690)
Sonata II La Cesta, op. 3,2 [7:01]
Francesco Maria VERACINI (1690 - 1768)
Finale: Canone sopra Ut re mi fa sol la [2:55]
Imaginarium: (Enrico Onofri (violin), Alessandro Tampieri (violin, lute), Margret Köll (harp), Riccardo Doni (harpsichord, organ)); Maria Cristina Vasi (viola), Alessandro Palmeri (cello)
rec. July 2006, Oratorio di Santa Croce, Mondovi (Curneo), Italy. DDD
Experience Classicsonline

Under the intriguing title "The Voice in the Violin" the Italian violinist Enrico Onofri, with his ensemble Imaginarium, presents a programme of music by Italian composers of the first half of the 17th century. In fact Pandolfo Mealli and Veracini belong to a later era. In this programme Onofri wants to show how closely instrumental and vocal music were connected at that time.
In the renaissance the human voice was considered the main instrument. Of course, all kind of musical instruments were played, but their role was mostly limited to supporting the voice by playing 'colla parte' or to replace the voice when necessary. They also played instrumental versions of vocal music. The only original instrumental music was dance music. Even when in the 17th century other forms of independent instrumental music came into existence the voice was still dominant. The more an instrument was able to imitate the human voice the more it was appreciated. Therefore the violin and the cornett were at the top of the ladder as they were considered most ideally suited to doing just that. During this time instrumental pieces of several kinds were composed; many of them had their origin in vocal music. Even sonatas show the traces of vocal music, as the programme on this disc demonstrates.
Through music specifically written for the violin by a number of virtuosos the violin became more independent. "However, throughout the first half of the century their works were to remain closely linked to the domain of vocal music, despite attempts to create a specific instrumental language - to such an extent that the writing in certain sonatas is very often similar to that of vocal music". So writes Enrico Onofri in the booklet. He has chosen a number of sonatas to illustrate that point. Most of these pieces are fairly well-known, but they amply illustrate his point, in particular as he has added some vocal items to the programme which are performed here instrumentally. In particular the two pieces by Monteverdi show great similarity in style to some instrumental works here if they are performed this way, more than if they were sung. Onofri underlines the connection in his ornamentation, which is partly used in both the vocal and the instrumental items.
Ornamentation is one of the main features of music of this time and place: This is absolutely essential in vocal and instrumental music alike. Onofri's performances are very virtuosic and also fairly dramatic. In the latter respect he is helped by the realisation of the basso continuo which underlines the theatrical character of this music - as did practically all Italian music of this time. The sonority and sometimes sudden outbursts of the harp are especially effective. How common it was to perform vocal music on instruments and how that music was ornamented is demonstrated by the 'passaggi' Rognoni composed over the famous madrigal 'Ancor che col partire'.
The only item where, in my view, the instrumental performance doesn't work is the madrigal 'Asciugate i begli occhi' by Carlo Gesualdo da Venosa. I have asked myself why I feel that way. It could have something to do with the very specific character of Gesualdo's musical language which was fundamentally different from what was common at the time. He rejected the 'seconda prattica', unlike the other composers in the programme. He tried to include modern expressivity in the old form of the madrigal. He wrote almost no instrumental music - only a handful of pieces that survive. Where other composers used instruments in their vocal music - Monteverdi is a famous example - and included vocal effects in the instrumental parts, Gesualdo's vocal music is strictly a capella. His musical language is so individual that it seems hardly possible to 'translate' it to instruments.
The disc ends with a most curious piece by Francesco Maria Veracini, pupil of Arcangelo Corelli and a violin virtuoso who worked in several places in Europe. As Onofri explains: "the recording ends with a short piece which the Florentine violinist Francesco Maria Veracini had printed on the last page of his Sonata (sic) Accademiche of 1744. Composed in a virtual pastiche of seventeenth-century style, and concluding a set of violin sonatas whose writing gives free rein to instrumental virtuosity, this archaic canon on the plainchant theme Ut relevet miserum fatum (Ut re mi fa sol la) seems intended to remind the performer of the old debt the violin owes to the voice; this is why we have chosen it as the finale to our programme".
It makes for a worthy end to a most original programme concept which is performed brilliantly. Nobody interested in Italian music of the early 17th century should miss this disc.
Johan van Veen


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