Songs without words Claudio MONTEVERDI(1567-1643) Laudate Dominum [3:42] Dario CASTELLO (1st half 17th C) Sonata II [4:54] Pierre SANDRIN(c1490-1560)/Adam WOOLF Doulce mémoire [4:53] Giovanni Battista FONTANA (1589-1630) Sonata VI [6:44] Girolamo FRESCOBALDI(1583-1643) Canzona IV [2:26] Diego ORTIZ (c1510-c1570) Recercada I - Recercada II - Recercada I (arr Adam Woolf)
[5:38] Girolamo FRESCOBALDI Canzon III [3:14] Cipriano DE RORE (1515/16-1565)/Adam
WOOLF Anchor che col partire [4:37] Heinrich SCHÜTZ(1585-1672) O Jesu, nomen dulce (SWV 308) [3:20] Girolamo FRESCOBALDI Canzon detta La Superba [3:15] Luca MARENZIO(1553/54-1599)/arr Giovanni
BASSANO (1560/61-1617) Liquide perle Amor [2:01] Jacob VAN EYCK(1589/90-1657) Pavane lachrymae [7:46] Girolamo FRESCOBALDI Se l'aura spira tutta vezzosa [7:51]
Adam Woolf (sackbut), Nicholas Milne (viola da gamba), Eligio Luis
Quinteiro (theorbo), Siobhán Armstrong (harp), Kathryn Cok (harpsichord,
rec. 31 November-3 December 2009, Church of St John the Evangelist,
Upper Norwood, London, UK. DDD
SFZMUSIC LC-18271 [60:30]
The sackbut was an instrument of the renaissance and baroque
which we now know as the trombone. It played an important role
in the 16th and 17th centuries. Used in an ensemble of 'cornetts
and sackbuts', it provided support to singers or served to replace
one or more of them. That was especially the case in liturgical
music. Like the cornett it was used in purely instrumental music
in the early 17th century. That said, there is hardly any music
from this period which was specifically written for it.
In his liner-notes Adam Woolf quotes Michael Praetorius, the
German composer and theorist, who referred to a sackbut player
as "being able to execute rapid coloraturas and jumps on
his instrument just as is done on the viola bastarda and the
cornett". The French theorist Marin Mersenne writes about
sackbut players who "play diminutions just as trumpets
and all other wind instruments". Woolf then rightly asks:
if sackbut players apparently had opportunities to show off
their virtuosic capabilities of both player and instrument,
what exactly did they play?
One answer is: ensemble music. A number of instrumental pieces
by Italian composers from the first half of the 17th century
had parts for sackbut which show the same amount of virtuosity
as parts for violin or cornett. As a member of the Caecilia-Concert
Woolf himself has played several such pieces. Examples can be
found on their disc "Schmelzer & Co", reviewed
here. I can't see any reason why Praetorius or Mersenne
must have referred to playing of pieces for sackbut solo. On
the other hand, it is remarkable that hardly any solo pieces
have come down to us. It is quite plausible that sackbut players
performed pieces which were originally intended for other instruments
or pieces without a specific indication of the instrument.
A part of the programme is devoted to such pieces. The Sonata
II by Dario Castello is written for a treble instrument,
like the violin, the cornett or the recorder. Performance by
the tenor sackbut demands transposition, but that was something
of which any player of that time was capable. The Sonata
VI by Fontana is from the composer's only collection of
instrumental music. Although he was a violinist by profession,
he indicates that the sonatas are for violin, cornett, bassoon,
chitarrone, violoncino "or another similar instrument".
Such formulas are hard to interpret correctly. It is a bit too
easy to take this as an excuse to play the treble part of such
a piece using the sackbut. The chitarrone is also mentioned,
but I doubt that anyone would think of deploying this as an
argument for playing the piece on the chitarrone with basso
continuo. Whether such pieces were performed by sackbut players
has to remain an open question.
But then, the programme as a whole can't be judged from a strictly
historical point of view. It is very unlikely, for instance,
that sackbut players would have played pieces from Jacob van
Eyck's collection Der Fluyten Lusthof. It is questionable,
for instance, how many copies of this collection of music for
solo recorder would have found their way outside the Netherlands.
Within the Netherlands music-making was largely restricted to
the private homes of aristocrats and citizens. It seems quite
unlikely that this included playing the sackbut. Also questionable
is the instrumental performance of solo concertos for voice
and basso continuo. In the renaissance it was quite common to
perform vocal parts with instruments, but at that time the text
was not central. Things changed in the first half of the 17th
century. That makes the performance of pieces like Monteverdi's
Laudate Dominum and Schütz's O Jesu, nomen dulce
historically not very plausible. That said, I would be very
happy if any singer would perform these sacred concertos in
the way Adam Woolf plays them. In his liner-notes he emphasizes
the need to pay attention to the text even if it ‘played’ instrumentally.
That is exactly what he does, and some singers could learn from
hsi example. It is just a shame the booklet doesn't include
the lyrics of these pieces.
Specifically interesting are the items in which Woolf demonstrates
the technique of divisions: the addition of ornaments to one
or more lines from a vocal piece. He plays such divisions by
Bassano over Luca Marenzio's madrigal Liquide perle Amor,
and follows that example in his own divisions over Doulce
mémoire by Pierre Sandrin and Anchor che col partire
by Cipriano de Rore. Diego Ortiz wrote a famous treatise on
the art of playing divisions. Although this was primarily intended
for playing the viola da gamba, its importance goes far beyond
that. It is interesting to hear some of the Ortiz pieces from
this book at the sackbut.
From what I have written one may conclude that this programme
is historically questionable as far as the choice of repertoire
is concerned. To a large extent this is inevitable as we just
don't know exactly what music sackbut players performed. It
is Adam Woolf's virtue that he has almost single-handedly put
the sackbut as a solo instrument on the map. Almost: the other
performers on this disc have a fair share in the quality of
this disc. Despite my remarks about the choice of music I have
the greatest admiration for the achievement of this ensemble.
The technical prowess of Adam Woolf and his colleagues is impressive.
The Italian cornettist wrote: "The players of the sackbut
are judged by their correct intonation, by their soft tone,
by their avoiding a mooing sound (...)". Those qualities
fully apply to Adam Woolf as well.
Johan van Veen
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