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Alfabeto Songs - Guitar songs from 17th-century Italy
Giovanni STEFANI (fl. 1618-1626)
Amante felice (sopra l'aria della Ciaccona)* [3:57]
Alma mia (Aria della Folia)* [2:58]
Giovanni Girolamo KAPSBERGER c. 1580-1651)
Rosa Bianca* [3:37]
Giovanni Paolo FOSCARINI (fl. 1629-1647)
Aria di Fiorenza sopra C [2:58]
Marcantonio Aldigiatti DE CESENA (?)
Deh volgetemi il guardo* [4:32]
Flamminio CORRADI (fl. 1615-1644)
Odi Euterpe*/** [3:52] Giovanni Paolo FOSCARINI
Ciacona in C [1:41]
Francesco CORBETTA (c.1615-1681)
Passacaglia in A [2:05]
Girolamo MONTESARDO (fl. 1606-c.1620)
Anima dove sei* [4:57]
Tarquinio MERULA (1594/95-1665)
Quando io volsi l'altra sera* [3:06] Giovanni STEFANI
O voi ch'intorno al lagrimoso canto* [3:32]
Bartolomeo BARBARINO de Fabriano (c.1570-after 1640)
Bella è la Donna mia*/** [3:12]
Gaspar SANZ (1640-1710)
Passacaglia in D [3:43] Girolamo MONTESARDO
La Grave* [3:26] Giovanni Girolamo KAPSBERGER
Felici gl'animi*/** [2:40] Francesco CORBETTA
Passacaglia in B [3:09] Giovanni STEFANI
Partenza* [4:49]
Raquel Andueza*, Theresa Dlouhy** (soprano)
Private Musicke (Richard Myron (violone, colascione), Jesús Fernandez Baena (theorbo), Daniel Pilz (colascione), Pierre Pitzl, Hugh Sandilands (guitar), David Mayoral (percussion))/Pierre Pitzl
rec. January 2012, Bischöfliches Palais, St Pölten, Austria DDD
Lyrics and translations included
ACCENT ACC 24273 [58:24]

The title of this disc refers to a fingering notation system for chords. It was developed in the wake of the emergence of the five-string chitarra espagnola around 1580. In this system a single letter is assigned to each guitar chord, for instance the A indicating G major, whereas numbers above single letters refer to barré chords. This term is used to describe the technique of stopping all or several of the strings at the same point by holding a finger across them, as explained in New Grove. The number denotes the fret used for the barré. Some composers utilised letters for dissonant chords and acciaccaturas. The programme of this disc brings together pieces by Italian composers from the first half of the 17th century - those for voice and guitar or for guitar solo. In many vocal compositions the choice of accompanying instruments was left to the performer, and could include harpsichord or organ, but also theorbo or harp. The use of the alfabeto in songs is an indication that the composer meant the voice to be accompanied by the guitar.
It was mostly the more light-hearted repertoire in which the guitar was involved. Among these are especially the villanelle and canzonette. These were usually written in strophic form and avoid heavy emotions. These were quite popular in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Even composers of high stature such as Lassus, Monteverdi or Kapsberger contributed to these genres.
This disc includes many pieces by lesser-known composers, such as Girolamo Montesardo and Bartolomeo Barbarino de Fabriano. Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger was one of the most famous theorbo players of his time and moved in the highest circles in Rome. Francesco Corbetta was the greatest guitar player of his time, according to Gaspar Sanz, no mean talent himself.
A special case is Giovanni Paolo Foscarini who travelled across Europe and caused some sensation with his playing of the guitar. There appears to be some evidence that he performed with other players and therefore a performance with some instruments could be justified. In most other cases that seems rather questionable, though. As the list of members of Private Musicke suggests, these songs involve more than a single guitar. It is regrettable that Pierre Pitzl in his liner-notes doesn't discuss this aspect. I doubt that the music scores give any indication of the involvement of more than one instrument. The inclusion of percussion in almost every piece is, in particular, debatable. At the end of the third stanza of Deh volgetemi il guardo the accompaniment is so dominant that the vocal line is almost relegated to the background.
Raquel Andueza is a specialist in 17th-century vocal music and has some fine recordings to her name. Her light and agile voice is excellently suited to this repertoire. She doesn't try too much which is as well because this music does not call for a very emotional approach. La Grave by Girolamo Montesardo is different: this is a kind of monody as we know it from the likes of Giulio Caccini. Here Ms Andueza's performance is strong on dynamic contrasts and she colours her voice according to the words. There are some other items where I felt that more of this would have led to a more incisive result. I have in mind the ones by Aldigiatti de Cesena and Stefani's O voi ch'intorno. The latter is not the composer, by the way, but the editor of the collection from which the several pieces are taken; the authors of the songs are not known.
This disc is interesting in regard to the repertoire. The guitar is regularly used these days in 17th century music, but discs devoted to songs specifically intended for guitar accompaniment are rare. The inclusion of pieces by various hardly-known composers makes the project even more worthwhile. The questionable aspects - although regrettable – have not in way diminished my enjoyment. If you are a guitar aficionado or a lover of 17th-century Italian repertoire there’s no need to hesitate. This disc will make a nice addition to your collection.

  Johan van Veen