Gioseffo GUAMI (1542-1611) La Luchesina- Vocal and Instrumental
(Nicholas Mulroy (tenor), Eamonn Dougan (baritone), Jamie Savan, Jeremy West, Helen Roberts, Gawain Glenton (cornett), Adam Woolf, Abigail Newman, Stephen Saunders, Miguel Tantos Sevillano (sackbut), Keith McGowan (dulcian), Jan Waterfield (organ)); His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts
rec. 26-28 February 2014, St Brandon's Church, Brancepeth, UK. DDD
Texts and translations included SFZMUSIC SFZM0115 [60:42]
Cornetts and sackbuts were among the most frequently-used
instruments in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. They not only
played instrumental music, but also participated in performances of
vocal music, especially sacred works. This disc presents an ensemble
of cornetts and sackbuts - with organ and in some pieces also a dulcian
- in these various roles.
The music on this disc is from the pen of Gioseffo Guami, one of the
most admired organists and composers of his time. He was born in Lucca
- the canzona La Luchesina refers to this town - and was sent
to Venice to study, probably as early as 1557. He was a pupil of Adrian
Willaert, the maestro di cappella of St Mark's. At the
age of 20 his first compositions were included in various anthologies,
and in 1565 he published a collection of madrigals. In 1567 Orlandus
Lassus came to Italy to hire musicians for the Bavarian court chapel.
He contracted Guami, who at that time was a singer in St Mark's,
for the position of organist. He remained in Munich until 1579, the
year his employer, Duke Albrecht, died. He returned to Lucca, where
he became organist at the basilica of S. Michele in Foro. In 1585 Guami
published his first book of motets which was dedicated to the successor
of his former employer, Duke Wilhelm of Bavaria. In 1588 he was appointed
first organist of St Mark's. In the booklet to the present disc
several renowned composers of his time are quoted praising Guami's
qualities as an organist and composer.
The then maestro di cappella, Gioseffo Zarlino, certainly played
an important role in Guami being appointed as organist. This could explain
why Guami left Venice soon after the death of Zarlino (1589) who was
succeeded by his rival Baldassare Donato. Guami returned to Lucca where
he became organist at the cathedral of S. Martino; he held this position
until his death.
The present programme of vocal and instrumental works has been put together
from various sources, in particular the Sacrae Cantiones of
1585 and the Canzonette alla francese of 1601. In both the
polychoral style, which was one of the hallmarks of Venetian music,
manifests itself. Some of the canzonettas are in eight parts divided
over two choirs; they are dominated by imitative polyphony. The same
goes for the canzonas which are from a collection of pieces by various
composers, edited and published by Alessandro Raverii in 1608. L'Acorta
is particularly interesting: one of the choirs is allocated to the organ
whose part is completely written out. It is supported in this recording
by the dulcian. In other pieces the organ plays a basso seguente
which means that it follows the lowest part. Obviously the performers
have much freedom in the way this music is performed. La Todeschina,
for instance, is in four parts: here the cornett takes the upper part,
the organ plays the remaining three parts.
Cornetts and sackbuts also participated in performances of vocal music.
They could play colla voce - supporting the singers and giving
additional colour to the vocal parts - or replace some of the voices.
This is the way the motets are performed here. Some of them are also
written for double choir, such as Magnus Dominus. It is worth
noting that the pieces from the 1585 collection may date from Guami's
time in Lucca. This suggests that the cori spezzati technique
had disseminated to other regions in Italy, probably under the influence
of Adrian Willaert's publications of sacred music. Vocal pieces
could also be performed purely instrumentally, as is the case here with
In hoc cognovi.
Guami's oeuvre is rooted in the counterpoint-dominated prima
prattica of the 16th century. His last collection of sacred music
was printed in 1608. However, this programme also includes a single
sacred concerto from a collection of 1613: O Maria for two
voices and basso continuo and written in the new monodic style which
was one of the features of the seconda prattica. Considering
that Guami was known in the first place as an organist it may come as
a surprise that the Toccata del secondo tuono is his only extant
organ work. This is largely due to the practice of improvising which
was the main task of any organist. There was hardly any need for printing
organ music, except for didactical purposes.
His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts has made some very fine discs for
Hyperion. It demonstrates its qualities here as well, and the choice
of music by Guami has to be welcomed. Some of his compositions may be
included in recitals, but I don't know any other disc entirely
devoted to his oeuvre. His vocal music I have certainly not heard before.
The instrumental pieces are of superior quality, and that comes off
well here. The motets are especially interesting as well as the way
they are performed. Nicholas Mulroy and Eamonn Dougan are experienced
in early music and members of various vocal ensembles. It is a little
disappointing that in particular Dougan uses a little too much vibrato
as this tends to damage the ensemble. It is essential in such a performance
that voices and instruments blend perfectly and that is not always the
case here. In O Maria Dougan also sings with too much vibrato,
and both singers should have added some ornamentation.
However, considering the overall quality of this disc these are relatively
minor issues. I urge anyone to investigate this disc. Guami's
music is well worth exploring and His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts
convincingly demonstrates its qualities.
Magnus Dominus [4:08] La Luchesina [2:31] In die tribulationis [5:11] Canzon XXV [2:42] La Guamina [2:16] Jubilate Deo [5:02] La Brilantina [3:08] L'Accorta [3:20] O Maria [3:15] In hoc cognovi [3:00] La Chiarina [3:16] La Battaglia [4:18] La Grave [2:22] In die resurrectionis [3:10] La Todeschina [3:18] La Ongediante [2:03] Toccata del secondo tuono [2:17] Canzon XXIV [3:05] Laetentur caeli [2:20]