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Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643)
Keyboard Music from Manuscript Sources
Toccata in F major [4:35]
Capriccio fatto sopra il Cucchù [5:35]
Toccata in A minor [3:41]
Ricercare cromatico post il Credo [2:48]
Toccata in F major [5:01]
Canzona in D minor [3:18]
Corrente in A major [1:07]
Toccata in C major [4:21]
Capriccio in G minor [3:38]
Toccata in E minor [3:53]
Canzona in D minor [3:51]
Corrente in G minor [1:22]
Partite sopra un aria Romana detta la Manista [4:54]
Capriccio in G major [3:54]
Toccata in G minor [3:57]
Corrente in G major [1:00]
Fantasia in E major [3:07]
Toccata and Canzona in G major [4:32]
Corrente in F major [1:26]
Toccata in F major [5:52]
Martha Folts (harpsichord)
rec. 12 August 2007, Ploger Hall, Manchester, Michigan, USA
NAXOS 8.570717 [73:03]
Experience Classicsonline

Frescobaldi occupies a position of particular importance in the history of keyboard music. Famously precocious as an organist - and, indeed, as a singer - he was the subject of encomiastic poems while still in his early teens and seems to have made tours of Italy rather in the later vein of the young Mozart. He was a student of Luzzasco Luzzaschi, organist to the duke of Ferrara; soon he was working in Rome and he went on to hold important posts there, as well as in Flanders, Mantua and Florence. His own pupils included, at one time or another, Luigi Battiferri, Francesco Muti, Valerio Spada and Jakob Johann Froberger.
Frescobaldi’s writing for keyboard – which is outstanding in the period in terms both of its quality and its surviving bulk – is grounded in the traditions of counterpoint well established at the Ferrarese court and, no doubt, inculcated by his studies with Luzzaschi. But he continued to grow and innovate throughout his career. His music incorporated and synthesised many other influences, not least those of contemporary vocal music, at both popular and sophisticated levels. Its own influence on later composers for the keyboard was immense.
The present CD assembles materials not published during Frescobaldi’s lifetime, which were gathered, under the title Keyboard Compositions Preserved in Manuscripts by W.R. Shindle (1968), drawing on three manuscripts in the library of the Vatican as well as manuscripts in the Biblioteca Nazionale in Turin, the British Library in London and the Staatbibliotek in Berlin - manuscripts which appear to belong to the years between 1630 and 1650. Though these works may not have been published by Frescobaldi, they are far from being mere leftovers. Many of them are striking compositions and they benefit here from the attentions of a fine performer making use of an instrument well suited to the music.
Martha Folts here plays an instrument made by Jerome de Zentis in Rome in 1658 - and, incidentally, richly decorated - which was owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from the 1880s until sold in recent years. After its sale by the museum, the instrument was restored by Keith Hill who contributes a note on the instrument to the CD booklet. It sounds as exquisitely handsome as it looks, and Martha Folts makes full and expressive use of the considerable musical resources it offers her.

In her booklet notes, Folts draws attention to the preface of one of Frescobaldi’s 1615 publications, his Primo libro di toccate, where the composer says that the player of his works should approach them with the new madrigal style in mind – that is, solo song with instrumental accompaniment. In Folt’s words, “this new style was characterized by flexibility of tempo, a variety of affetti (embellishments) and uneven treatment of the rhythm, all with the purpose of interpreting the text with more soul”. Folts’ own playing on this CD certainly takes up Frescobaldi’s invitation; she interprets the notes on the page with an always intelligent freedom and the music consistently comes across with brilliance and expressiveness. Unafraid of strong contrasts of tempo, there is at times an almost improvisational air to some of Folts’ playing. As I made notes on repeated hearings, my list of individual pieces which I found particularly enjoyable grew so extensive as to incorporate almost everything on the CD! If you like - as you should! - interpretations of Frescobaldi’s keyboard writing which do justice to the vitality of his inventiveness, which communicate a vitalised and vitalising energy – and which are well recorded – you need look no further than this outstanding CD.

Glyn Pursglove

see also review by Johann van Veen



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