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L'arpa di Partenope - Harp Music from Early Baroque Naples
Margret Köll (arpa doppia)
rec. 2012, Evangelische Brüdergemeinde, Berlin-Neukölln, Germany. DDD
ACCENT ACC24192 [56:27]

The harp is one of the oldest instruments in history. It has often been considered a 'royal' instrument, especially because King David played it, as is recounted in the Old Testament of the Bible. In the Middle Ages it played an important role, especially in the accompaniment of singers. At the end of the 16th century it started to rise to even more prominence, not only for accompaniment, but also as a solo instrument in music of considerable virtuosity. In this development Naples played a key role. Here several significant builders and players of the arpa doppia were active, some of whom are mentioned in the booklet to Margret Köll's disc.

Few of the harpists of those days have left any compositions. It is telling that the large majority of the pieces Köll selected for her recording were taken from collections of keyboard music. Sometimes a title includes an indication that it was conceived for the harp (Trabaci, Toccata II, & Ligature per l'Arpa), but the fact that such pieces are included in books of keyboard music shows that they could also be played on a keyboard instrument. Sometimes alternatives were indicated in the titles. That is the case, for instance, in the collection of music by Antonio de Cabezón which was published posthumously under the title Obras de musica para tecla, arpa y vihuela (1578).

One of the few composers of music specifically intended for the harp is Giovanni Leonarda dell'Arpa; about 15 pieces from his pen were included in anthologies. Io navigai un tempo is one of them; it is an intabulation of a villanella. Such intabulations were characteristic of the prima prattica. Considering Carlo Gesualdo's interest in experiments with forms and harmony it is hardly surprising that he called dell'Arpa's style "somewhat old-fashioned". Compare this piece - and also Venga quel bel Narcisso, an intabulation by Giovanni Domenico da Nola - with Gesualdo's Gagliarda del Principe di Venosa, the only extant instrumental piece from his pen. With its frequent chromaticism and dissonants it is the counterpart of the madrigals from his last two books.

The same sense of experiment comes to the fore in the compositions by Giovanni de Macque, Giovanni Maria Trabaci and Ascanio Mayone. The former was in the service of the Gesualdo household for a number of years, but Gesualdo certainly must have known the others. De Macque's Durezze, e ligature is an example of a piece which demonstrates the composer's interest in harmonic experiments, and so is his Seconde Stravaganze as is the case with all pieces of the time with the word stravaganze in their title. It means "extravagance" and that is exactly how such pieces must have been experienced by people who had grown up with the strictly organized counterpoint of the prima prattica. Another new element of the seconda prattica was the composing of instrumental music which was not based on vocal models, such as toccatas and gagliardas. The toccata was a form rooted in the practice of improvisation which was the main skill expected of any player of keyboard, harp or plucked instruments. However, that does not mean that vocal music was banned from instrumental music. Trabaci's virtuosic divisions on the madrigal Ancidetemi pur by Jacques Arcadelt prove otherwise. Mayone based a ricercar on the cantus firmus of a vocal work by Constanzo Festa (c1485/90-1545).

The inclusion of music by Spanish composers makes sense. Since 1503 Naples was part of the Spanish Empire, and De Macque became maestro of the Chapel of the Spanish Viceroy in 1599. In the booklet Chiara Granata addresses the origins of some forms of Italian music in Spain. "Dances with ornamentation (glosas) formed the starting point for the Italian tradition of instrumental musical forms with variations, and the polyphony of the tientos served as a model for intabulated chansons." Hence the inclusion of Tiento del primer tono and Para quien crie yo cabellos by De Cabezón. The Spanish rule of Naples ended only in the early 18th century, and until that time Spanish music continued to influence music life in Naples, and outwards from there to Italy at large. It especially resulted in a quick dissemination of the Spanish guitar for which various Italian composers started to write, both music for guitar solo and songs with accompaniment of the Spanish guitar. The pieces by Ribayaz can serve as examples of music for the Spanish guitar; the performances by Margret Köll show that they can be perfectly played on the harp.

This disc is a fine introduction to the Italian music for the harp and its versatility. Margret Köll is an experienced interpreter who has taken part in many recordings of 17th-century repertoire. Here she shows her qualities as a soloist. She is a brilliant and stylish player who convincingly brings out the specific features of the various pieces in her programme. The many twists and turns in the 'extravagant' compositions come off very well.

Johan van Veen

Giovanni Maria TRABACI (1575-1647)
Toccata II, & Ligature per l'Arpa [3:23]
Carlo GESUALDO da Venosa (1566-1613)
Gagliarda del Principe di Venosa [1:47]
Ascanio MAYONE (1565-1627)
Toccata Prima [4:10]
Giovanni DE MACQUE (1550-1614)
Durezze, e ligature [5:09]
Giovanni LEONARDO dall'Arpa (c1525-1602)
Io navigai un tempo [1:21]
Giovanni Domenico DA NOLA (1510-1592)
Venga quel bel Narcisso [2:18]
Giovanni DE MACQUE (1550-1614)
Seconda Gagliarda [1:59]
Antonio DE CABEZÓN (1510-1566)
Para quien crie yo cabellos, romance [2:32]
Tiento del primer tono [2:31]
Diferencias sobre la Pavana Italiana [3:36]
Francesco LAMBARDO (1587-1642)
Toccata [2:18]
Giovanni Maria TRABACI (1575-1647)
Ancidetemi pur, per l'Arpa [5:43]
Ascanio MAYONE (1565-1627)
Ricercar sopra il Canto fermo di Constantio Festa [3:44]
Giovanni DE MACQUE (1550-1614)
Seconde Stravaganze [2:16]
Ascanio MAYONE (1565-1627)
Partite sopra Fidele [2:42]
Lucas Ruiz DE RIBAYAZ (1650-?)
Achas [1:48]
Bacas [2:08]
Ruggiero [1:43]
Xacaras [1:51]
Espanoletas [3:18]



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