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Discorsi delle Comete
Ensemble Daimonion (Andrea Inghisciano (cornett), Anais Chen (violin), Soma Salat-Zakariás (viola da gamba), Daniel Rosin (cello), Josep María Martí Duran (theorbo), Maria Gonzàlez (harpsichord))
rec. 6 September 2013, Pieve di San Pietro, Presciano, Arezzo, Italy. DDD
ET'CETERA KTC1914 [69:56]

Many things changed in Italian music around 1600. The present disc focuses on one aspect: the emergence of instrumental virtuosity. This went hand in hand with the writing of music specifically intended for instruments and the exploration of the specific features of instruments such as the violin and the cornett. However, things didn't change as drastically as one might think. Polyphony still played an important role and for most of the 17th century vocal music was at the top of the musical hierarchy.

The programme of this disc spans around a century: the earliest piece, Girolamo Dalla Casa's diminutions on Adrian Willaert's chanson Iouissance vous donneray, is from a collection of 1584, and the latest is the Sonata XI by Alessandro Stradella who died in 1681. The main genres in instrumental music during that period are represented. The programme opens with the Sonata IX by Dario Castello who left behind him only 29 compositions, published in two books of sonate concertate in 1621 and 1629 respectively. Like all sonatas of the time it is divided into several contrasting sections. The title of the collections indicates that such sonatas can be played on various instruments; in this case we hear cornett, violin and cello. As the title indicates things are different in the case of the Sonata Violino solo by Philipp Friedrich Böddecker. This sonata documents the influence of the Italian style in Germany. It is interesting that Böddecker never visited Italy; there were other ways to become acquainted with the Italian style. It is also notable that Böddecker was not a professional violinist, but was educated as a bassoonist. This sonata is his only extant composition for violin solo. It is idiomatically written in that it includes double-stopping, for instance in the opening bars. It is again in various sections with different tempo indications without any formal division into movements. The Sonata XI by Stradella is one of the last of this kind; in the year of his death Arcangelo Corelli published his trio sonatas op. 1 which are divided into clearly separated movements. Stradella's sonata is also a late example of harmonic experimentation as it includes quite a few dissonants.

Whereas the sonata was an example of the specific writing for instruments, the canzona is a form which is derived from vocal music: the chanson. That comes to the fore in its polyphonic texture. However, with the passage of time the differences between the two genres gradually disappeared. The two canzonas by Picchi are not fundamentally different from the sonatas. An interesting specimen of a relatively rare scoring is the Canzon a doi bassi by Bartolomeo de Selma y Salaverde. This can be explained by the fact that he was a professional bassoonist. It is played here on theorbo and cello.

The third genre is even more inspired by vocal music. Since the late renaissance players started to improvise variations on single voices from popular vocal items: chansons, madrigals and motets. These are known as diminutions or - in Italian - passaggi. The Italian instrumentalist and writer Sylvestro di Ganassi published three treatises on the playing of the recorder (1535) and the viola da gamba (1542, 1543) respectively which provide much information about, for instance, the improvisation of ornamentation. He left no compositions and Andrea Inghisciano took the examples in his treatises as models for his own improvisations on Willaert's chanson La Rose. Other diminutions are from the pens of some of the best-known composers of such works, Giovanni Bassano, Girolamo Dalla Casa and Francesco Rognoni. Some are for one instrument and basso continuo, others for two.

In many pieces for instrumental ensemble from the first half of the 17th century the choice of instruments is left to the performers. Obviously they have to bend with the idiomatic features of the pieces they choose to play. However, the fact that Selma de Salaverde was a bassoonist doesn't necessarily imply that a piece like the Canzon a doi bassi can only be played on two bassoons. That said, the choice of the cello seems not the most plausible. The early history of the cello is a rather complicated affair. The word 'cello' was used in 1665 for the first time, but it seems likely that it was given to an already existing instrument. However, it seems unlikely that the bass string instruments which were used in the first half of the 17th century were the same as those used in the 18th century - the kind of instrument Daniel Rosin plays here. The viola da gamba - or the violone - would probably have been preferable.

That is the only aspect of this disc about which I have some doubts. I have no doubts whatsoever about the quality of the interpretations. This seems to be the debut recording of the Ensemble Daimonion. It could hardly have made a better start. These young artists show an impressive technical prowess which allows them to concentrate on an expressive interpretation of the repertoire. That has resulted in a compelling concert and this has been enhanced by an intelligent selection of pieces. It is nice that they have largely avoided the most frequently performed compositions and included some lesser-known items, such as the sonata by Böddecker.

In the booklet we read: "This CD has been realised through the support of THERESIA, an initiative of private patronage with the aim to support young artists in their career development through the awarding of grants and direct financing of their artistic projects". In this case the money was spent well.

Johan van Veen

Track Listing
Dario CASTELLO (1590-1658)
Sonata IX a 3 (1621) [6:49]
Giovanni Pierluigi DA PALESTRINA (1525-1594), arr Giovanni BASSANO (1561-1617)
Introduxit me Rex (1591) [4:52]
Giovanni PICCHI (1561-1613)
Canzon XII a 4 (1625) [3:18]
Philipp Friedrich BÖDDECKER (1607-1683)
Sonata Violino solo (1651) [7:58]
Johann Hieronymus KAPSBERGER (c1580-1651)
Canzon I (1640) [3:50]
Adrian WILLAERT (1490-1562), arr Girolamo DALLA CASA (?-1601)
Iouissance vous donneray (1584) [4:54]
Alessandro STRADELLA (1639?-1681)
Sonata XI for violin and bc [13:38]
Giovanni Martino CESARE (c1590-1667)
Canzon detta La Fenice (1621) [3:28]
La Rose [4:59]
Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643)
Toccata I (1627) [3:40]
Bartolomea DE SELMA Y SALAVERDE (1595-1638)
Canzon a doi bassi (1638) [3:08]
Giovanni Pierluigi DA PALESTRINA, arr Francesco ROGNONI (after 1570-1626)
Pulchra es, amica mea (1620) [5:25]
Giovanni PICCHI
Canzon XI a 4 (1625) [4:00]



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