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Download: Classicsonline


Serenissime Sonate
Giovanni ARRIGONI (1597-1665)
Sonata a 5 [3:13]
Sonata a 6 No. 1 [4:11]
Sonata a 6 No. 2 [3:00]
Tarquinio MERULA (1594-1665)
Canzon, Op. 9/11, “La Fontana” [4:01]
Sonata da camera, Op. 17/3 [2:34]
La Strada, Op. 12 [3:30]
La Cattarina [2:35]
Biagio MARINI (1597-1665)
Balletto a 2 No. 5 [7:47]
Passacaglio a 3 and a 4 [5:00]
Francesco CAVALLI (1602-1676)
Sonata (canzone) a 3 [5:53]
Sonata a 6 [4:28]
Sonata a 4 No. 11 [4:14]
Sonata a 5 No. 10 [3:18]
Martino PESENTI (1600-1648)
Passo e mezzo a 3 [1:56]
Massimiliano NERI (1615-1666)
Sonata a 4 No. 5 [5:39]
Sonata a 5 No. 6 [4:39]
Sonata a 6 No. 7 [5:59]
Sonatori de la Gioiosa Marca
rec. 2002, Chiesa di S.Vigilio, Col San Martino, Italy
DIVOX CDX-70505 [71:47] 


Experience Classicsonline

If you, like me, enjoy trawling the “road less travelled”, at least in the musical sense, then you will know the “Eureka moment”. You spend days, weeks, perhaps even months, listening to the works of little known composers, hearing nothing but second or third rank music, justifying the obscurity of their creators.  Then, all that counts for nothing: you hear something quite extraordinary, and like Archimedes in his bath, you experience the Eureka moment. 

This disc is one such moment.  Look at the names in the track listing: Arrigoni, Merula, Marini … it might as well be a team sheet for AC Milan, except I would recognise some of their names!  I believe that Cavalli’s name might have crossed my path, but definitely none of the others. 

The CD is subtitled Music for strings in the republic of Venice 1630-1660 and the time is significant.  1630 is the year that the plague reached Venice. It claimed almost 50,000 victims in the city alone, including outstanding musicians, such as the violinist Giovanni Fontana and the celebrated Alessandro Grandi, who, at the chapel of San Marco, was second only to Monteverdi. In November 1631, Monteverdi's music was played and all the surviving citizens gathered at the Basilica San Marco. The musical renaissance of the city began with the construction of public, commercial music theatres which turned out to be a winning idea that quickly made its way not only through the entire city, but also throughout Europe as a prime export of Venice. 

I don’t think I can usefully describe each piece, so I’ll restrict my comments on the music in general.  There is a great variety of moods – fast, thrilling, flowing, wistful – throughout the seventeen pieces so there is no need to be concerned that it will “all sound the same”, a criticism I have heard levelled at this type of music from some who clearly haven’t listened to it properly.  With a longest run time of less than eight minutes, none outstays its welcome.  If I was to recommend three pieces that illustrate the virtues of this CD, they would be Arrigoni’s Sonata a 5, Merula’s Canzon and Neri’s Sonata a 6.  Suffice to say that if you are interested in this type of music, don’t hesitate, but those who aren’t sure might find the following paragraph interesting. 

Until a couple of years ago when I read a MusicWeb International review of a Naxos recording of German chamber works of the 17th century (Das Partiturbuch 8.557679 – see reviews), that particular area of music had not been one to interest me greatly.  Something in the review intrigued enough me to buy the disc: it too was a Eureka moment. I made the disc one of my Records of the Year, included it in my Classic Classics, and began to investigate the genre. 

Not surprisingly, the Italian style differs rather from the German, but both still appeal greatly.  The music here is on a slightly larger scale than that in the Partiturbuch, where most of the works were for one or two instruments plus bass continuo.  In this recording, Sonatori de la Gioiosa Marca  uses ten players: three violins, two violas, cello, viol, archlute, organ/cembalo and percussion.  

The ensemble (see their website) was founded in 1983 in Treviso, near Venice and they use authentic instruments. Fortunately, their style is bold but not harsh, dramatic but not rushed. They have made a number of recordings of the Italian Baroque, including Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.  I will try to hunt this down, as I am interested to hear how they compare to my version of choice for this: Fabio Biondi and Europa Galante on Opus111. 

I listened to this recording as a near-CD quality stream from the Naxos Music Library, and it is available for download and preview from Classics Online (see the sales link above). The sound from the good quality audio system on my computer was vibrant and detailed, so I presume listening on a conventional system to the CD would have been even better.

David J Barker 



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