Pietro Vinci was a Sicilian composer, born
in Nicosia in central Sicily in 1515. Though his music was
published in Venice, which was one of the big music publishing
centres, his pieces were generally dedicated to illustrious
Sicilians so we must presume that his training and background
was Sicilian. He certainly seems to have travelled. From 1567
to 1581 he was maestro di cappella at Santa Maria Maggiore
in Bergamo, and was probably in Naples in the 1550s as he
appears to have had a group of pupils there, in addition to
his Sicilian. His most important pupil was the Sicilian Antonio
il Verso who based himself in Palermo after Vinci’s death.
In 1591 the heirs of Girolamo Scotto in Venice
published a set of part-books for a ‘Second Book of Motets
and Ricercars in 3 voices by Pietro Vinci with Ricercars
by Antonio Il Verso his disciple’. The collection consisted
of eleven motets and fourteen ricercars for three voices;
all the motets are by Vinci and there are seven motets each
by Vinci and by Verso. The music was printed in three separate
part-books and the ranges of the music would suggest that
it would be suitable for a trio of viols. On this disc Diego
Cannizzaro plays them on an historic organ.
In the original publication Vinci’s Ricercars
were alternated with Verso’s, the order being determined by
the fact that Verso based his Ricercars on the models of his
teacher. Vinci had already published a book of instrumental
music for two voices in 1560 and Cannizzaro includes a selection
of seven items from this at the end of his recital. These
2-part Ricercars all have curious names which generally refer
to Sicilian people and places.
His organ was built in 1666 by Giuseppe Speradeo
in the church of San Pantaleone in Alcar Li Fusi, Messina.
The organ was restored in 2000. Though the booklet includes
an English translation of Diego Cannizzaro’s article on Vinci
and Verso, the details of the organ are left in Italian, though
there is a photograph showing that the instrument is indeed
very handsome. From what I can gather the instrument has nine
different stops and includes a pedal board.
Quite whether a 17th century organ
is the best medium for playing 16th century viol
music is a moot point. Undoubtedly the instrument is an interesting
one and in a state which renders a recital quite desirable.
And one can understand Cannizzaro’s desire to play Sicilian
music. But though the performances are creditable, there were
moments when I missed the give and take of real chamber music.
The music on the disc is charming and played
with great variety by Cannizzaro, who draws on the organ’s
admittedly limited resources to vary the registrations. This
is rather necessary as the individual items all have a rather
limited musical and emotional compass. The organ itself is
a characterful delight, with a number of highly distinctive
This is more of a disc to dip into than to
play in its entirety. It is a desirable disc on two counts,
because of the rarity of music by Vinci and Verso in the catalogue
and because it makes available a recording of such an historic
organ. To enjoy the disc, though, you must compromise and
accept the organ transcriptions of the instrumental pieces,
on balance a small price to pay I think.