Facco’s name and music are little-known these days, but in his own time he had a solid – if perhaps somewhat ‘localised’ reputation – and a successful professional career. His music should appeal to any modern listener with a fondness for the Italian baroque concerto.
Facco was born into a farming family in the village of Marsango, a little over ten miles from Padua. Little or nothing appears to be known of his early musical education. By the early 1700s he was active as a composer, conductor and instrumentalist in southern Italy, in the service of Carlo Filippo Spinola, Marquis de los Balbases (1665-1721), working in Naples and Sicily. When Spinola returned to Spain after the treaty of Utrecht in 1713, Facco accompanied him, working at the Chapel Royal and becoming its Master in 1720 as well as acting as tutor in music to the royal princes Luis (the future Luis I), Fernando (Ferdinand VI) and Carlos (Carlos III). After the death of Carlo Filippo Spinola — to whom his Pensieri Adriarmonici
had been dedicated on their publication in Amsterdam in 1716-19 — the next Marquis, Carlo Ambrogio Spinola (1681-1708) continued to act as a patron of the composer. Indeed he took Facco with him to Lisbon when he went there to negotiate a royal marriage. While there Facco turned down the offer of an appointment at the royal court, a decision he would later have cause to regret. The post he had refused was accepted by Domenico Scarlatti and his association with the Portuguese Princess Maria Bárbara de Braganza (his student) meant that he followed her to Madrid on her marriage to Ferdinand VI of Spain in 1728. The arrival of Princess Maria — and Scarlatti — in Madrid, and the fact that Facco had earlier spurned the Portuguese royal family seems to have led to Facco’s fall from favour. Documents suggest that in the 1630s he was having real difficulties in getting his salary paid, and after his death in February 1653, Facco’s widow had - in vain - to request repeatedly the payment of her late husband’s pension.
Facco and his music seem then to have faded out of public attention. Mentions of him by music historians or in works of reference are few and far between. This began to change with the chance rediscovery of these concertos in a library in Mexico in 1962, when a set of these concertos fell from the shelves onto an archivist looking for something else. This accident led to fresh scholarly research on Facco, notably Uberto Zanolli’s Giacomo Facco Maestro de reyes: introducción a la vida y la obra del gran músico veneto de 1700
(Mexico City, 1965). That Facco’s music should have found its way to Mexico is not particularly surprising since the same held true of many Spanish-based composers. The fact that his patrons, the Spinolas, had economic interests in the mines of Mexico may have been significant in his particular case.
In essence these concertos — all of them in three movements — are northern Italian in style
review of Volume 1
). Facco is one of the heirs of Vivaldi and, through him, as well, presumably, as directly, of Corelli and Albinoni. One hears the influence of Corelli, for example, in some of the harmonic suspensions in the initial allegro of No.7, while the model provided by Vivaldi is clearly evident in No.9. Facco is capable of genuine individuality too. No. 10 - written in the rarely used key of E flat major - is full of surprises, not least in the alternations of tempo in its first movement, which juxtaposes passages marked adagio staccato
with passages marked presto
or in the unusual harmonic effects in the last movement. No one of these concertos is especially profound, either intellectually or emotionally — although adagios such as those of Nos.8 and 9 have a genuine lyrical power — but all of them are both competent and vivacious. The strategy adopted by the present performers serves to make them even more enjoyable listening than they might have been. On this recording the continuo section includes both the guitarrón and the vihuela, both of them instruments of Mexican origin, alongside the harpsichord and the cello. This seems a logical choice – just as the forms and styles of Spanish architecture were, by the eighteenth century being transformed and given a distinctly ‘Mexican’ character, it seems reasonable to assume that a similar pattern would have held true in the Mexican performance of European music. Certainly it works in these performances, an attractive Mexican musical flavouring being added to an Italian original. The result is both distinctive and eminently listenable.