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1600: Masterpieces of 17th-century Italian Instrumental Music
Contents list at end of review
Mauro Lopes Ferreira, Nicholas Robinson (violins), Ettore Belli (viola), Luca Peverini (cello), Ugo di Giovanni (theorbo)
Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini (harpsichord, organ)
rec. Pontifico Istituto di Musica Sacra, Rome, March 2011. DDD.
NAÏVE OP30531 [66:44]

Experience Classicsonline

The 1600 of the title should really be circa 1600; no matter – it’s a convenient peg on which to hang a programme designed to demonstrate the advances and developments in instrumental music during the seventeenth century as it moved away from a mere accompanying role and developed in its own right. Even a glance at the dates of the composers will reveal that half of them were not even born in 1600, let alone composing then.
The crucial dates for the development of purely instrumental music are actually a little earlier than 1600: the publication in 1587 of Antonio Gabrieli’s Ricercar per suonar and his nephew Giovanni’s Sonata pian’ e forte (1597). Nothing here is quite that early – the earliest date given is 1608: the Fantaisie attributed to Rossi the first item was, presumably, placed first because in it the violin takes on the role of the human voice, that of Orpheus lamenting the loss of Euridice.
If that sounds like a mere intellectual exercise, let me say at once that it’s much more than that. I can think of many other more vital recordings by Concerto Italiano and Rinaldo Alessandrini – the list in the booklet serves to remind us how many first-rate recordings they have made for Naïve/Opus111 – but I very much enjoyed hearing this new release.
Of the many other first-rate recordings which Concerto Italiano have made, my own personal favourites are to be found in their 5-CD set of Monteverdi Madrigals (OP30348, also available separately), Scarlatti and Pergolesi Stabat Mater (OP30160) and Vivaldi Gloria (OP30195), with a warning that the last two are taken at a very fast pace. If 1600 is not quite in that essential category, it’s still very instructive and very enjoyable indeed.
Brian Wilson
Having reviewed this briefly in my March 2012/2 Roundup, I passed the CD on to Geoffrey Molyneux for a second, more detailed opinion:
This is a very interesting CD, giving us a real insight into the development of instrumental music in its own right, without reference to texts and voices in seventeenth century Venice, a city of prime importance in this genre. We hear early examples of the kind of works which would gradually evolve into the fully-fledged sonatas and concertos of the more famous later Baroque composers. All the music here is played by a string quartet consisting of two violins, viola and cello with the addition of varying continuo – theorbo, harpsichord and organ.
One of the finest pieces on this disc must surely be the first, a fantaisie thought to by Luigi Rossi, from his opera Orfeo, first performed in Paris in 1647. The slow, tragic opening section is movingly played by Alessandrini’s players, and this is followed by a dramatic, quicker section. The high quality of this performance sets the standard for the rest of the CD.
The canzona ‘La Spiritata’ by Giovanni Gabrieli follows. It was published in 1608 in an anthology of Venetian music and is based on an earlier keyboard version. Although it is in a minor key, it is mostly bright and dance-like in character, and has a mixture of contrapuntal and simpler chordal sections. This is a work that has been recorded many times in a variety of instrumentations. Although the London Symphony Orchestra Brass plays beautifully on Naxos, it is for me at least, unappealing. It all sounds too beautiful and too easy on modern instruments, totally out of style. In fact, I really disliked this CD from the time when I first bought it. Similarly the American Brass Quintet’s performance from 1986 sounds inauthentic, so it is really refreshing to hear this lovely performance from Alessandrini and his colleagues. They capture the moods of the sections of the canzona perfectly.
There are two pieces by Tarquinio Merula on this disc. The first is a really ebullient canzona from the composer’s youth, and later we hear his Capriccio cromatico transcribed from a keyboard piece by Alessandrini. It is an affecting and light-hearted piece, not quite what we expect from a piece with a chromatic theme.
I only recently became familiar with the music of Dario Castello during a trip to Venice, and it is a body of work well-worth investigating. He worked alongside Monteverdi at St Mark’s Basilica, and like Monteverdi was involved with the evolution of the new styles and forms being developed at this time. The sonata recorded here is in several sections full of variety in mood and colour.
A selection of dances from the only known work by Gasparo Zanetti is recorded here. The dances seem very basic, but they are carefully crafted and attractive, if musically undemanding. Musica Antiqua Toulon have also recorded extracts from this work using a variety of instruments including recorder, and they adopt more contrasting tempi on the whole, but Alessandrini’s performances sound more authentic and convincing. To give an idea of the style of these pieces, they are similar to the more well-known dances contained in Danserye published a few years later by Tielman Susato. However Zanetti’s collection is for string instruments, specifically designed for pedagogical purposes with bowing and fingering marks.
Biagio Marini’s Passacaglia is set of variations on a theme, a fine piece of music beautifully played by Alessandrini’s ensemble. Tafelmusik also perform this music, but with a large ensemble in a more romantic, if vibrato-less way, in a resonant acoustic.
Giovanni Legrenzi was a fine and prolific composer, and a founder of the trio sonata. He is represented here by his sonata, La Cetra. The opening string motif in unison with harpsichord sounds a bit out of tune, but this seems to add to the charm. The opening Andante is the only substantial movement and consists of a charming melody treated to fairly simple counterpoint. The remaining movements take under a minute to perform, the final humorous Presto ending very abruptly. This is an excellent performance of one of my favourite pieces on the disc. I heard the Nice Baroque Orchestra perform this piece with a large ensemble, but Alessandrini’s performance is again much more sensitive and stylish with great variety of moods and tempi in each of the four movements.
Like Legrenzi, Giovanni Bononcini was well-travelled and he became famous throughout Europe. He was very prolific, and the Sonata da Chiesa recorded here was written when he was only seventeen. It demonstrates how Bononcini was already competent in the techniques of counterpoint and harmony of the time.
Giuseppe Torelli, a composer who had a great influence on Vivaldi, is represented here by his Concerto Grosso Opus 6 No.1. The performance is light and airy.
The final composer on this disc was previously unknown to me. Evaristo Dall’Abaco may well have been a pupil of Torelli. His Concerto Opus 2 No.1 has an opening Largo with delicate contrapuntal lines and it is played very expressively and touchingly. The fast movements are performed with great style and panache and the final Allegro assai brings this disc to a fine conclusion.
This is a superb release in every way. The music is engaging and entertaining as well as being excellently played and recorded. It is also historically informative and instructive and I recommend it wholeheartedly.
Geoffrey Molyneux

Contents list

Anon. (Luigi ROSSI? c.1597-1653)
Fantaisie (les pleurs d’Orphée)
Giovanni GABRIELI (c.1554-1612)
Canzone a quattro detta la spiritata
(1608) [3:05]
Tarquinio MERULA (c.1594-1665)
Capriccio cromatico
a 4 [3:02]
Giovanni da MACQUE (c.1550-1614)
Consonanze stravaganti
Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643)
Canzona quinta a quattro
(1614) [3:32]
Tarquinio MERULA
Capriccio cromatico
Giovanni SALVATORE (c.1620?-c.1668)
Canzone francese seconda a Quattro (1641) [3:10]
Dario CASTELLO (c.1590-c.1658)
Sonata decima sesta à 4 per stromenti d’arco (1644) [5:56]
Gaspare ZANETTI (fl.1626-1645)
Il scolaro… per imparare a suonare di violino
(1645) [9:45]
Biagio MARINI (1594-1663)
Passacaglio a quattro e a tre (1655) [4:04]
Giovanni LEGRENZI (1626-1690)
Sonata seconda a quattro
(1662) [6:12]
Giovanni BONONCINI (1670-1747)
Sinfonia quarta
(1687) [6:26]
Giuseppe TORELLI (1658-1709)
Concerto for strings, Op.6/1 [5:51]
Evaristo dell’ABACO (1675-1742)
Concerto a quattro da chiesa
, Op. 2/1 in d minor (1712) [7:49]






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