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Ghirlanda Sacra: Early 17th-Century Music in Naples
Roberta Invernezzi, Antonella Ippolito (soprano), Daniela del Monaco (alto), Rosario Totaro (tenor)
Collegium Gregorianum della Pietrasanta (Stefano Di Fraja, Lucio Carlevalis, Antonio Spagnolo, Mark Weir, Guido Ferretti, Vincenzo De Gregorio (director))
I Turchini (Nicholas Robinson, Rosario Di Meglio (violin), Paolo Dionisio (viola da gamba), Antonio Florio (cello), Marco Fodella (archlute), Pierluigi Ciapparelli (theorbo), Enrico Baiano (harpsichord), Marco Bisceglie(organ))/Antonio Florio (direction)
rec. Naples 1993
Notes in English, French and German. Sung texts in Latin.

During the Renaissance many writers made much of the legend that Naples had been founded by the Siren Partenope/Parthenope, one of the daughters of the tragic muse Melpomene and the river God Achelous and one of the sirens whose beautiful music enchanted all who heard it and who (as in the Odyssey) used it to lure sailors onto the rocks. Reiteration of this myth encouraged a belief – amongst both Neapolitans and others – that the city should be a musical centre of some importance.

This present anthology of ‘Parthenopean’ music concentrates on the early years of the seventeenth century, years when the Church was central to musical life in the city, a position gradually challenged by the rise of opera from the middle years of the century. Churches such as the Royal Chapel, S. Giacomo degli Spagnoli, the Gesł Nuovo, S.Maria del Carmine, S. Domenico Soriano and others were patrons of musicians and church music. There were also a number of early music ‘schools’, such as the Conservatorio di S. Onofrio in the borough of Capuana and the Conservatorio di S. Maria della Pietą dei Turchini (the word ‘turchini’ refers to the deep blue – known as ‘turchino’ – of the clothes worn by its students). There were, at the beginning of the 1600s, some 500 churches in Naples and the great majority of them were active in their encouragement of sacred music.

In the early years of the Seicento there was something of a division in Neapolitan church music. On the one hand there were conservatives who continued to prefer (and to write) unaccompanied (or at the most accompanied by nothing more than a very basic kind of continuo) choral music, disapproving, as they did, of concertato sacred music, associated with Monteverdi and other north-Italian composers. In opposition to this first group were those who wanted, rather, to embrace this newer style. The Neapolitan leader of the new style appears to have been Giovanni Maria Sabino. Born at Turi, near Bari, in June 1588, Sabino seems to have had his early musical education at the hands of Prospero Testa in Naples, from the age of about 14. His abilities were soon recognised and in 1622 he was appointed maestro di capella at the Conservatorio di S. Maria della Pietą dei Turchini, a position he held for some 4 years, before moving on to posts at, inter alia, S. Barbara in the Castel Nuovo (a royal church) and the Oratorio di S. Filippo, before finally, in 1634 being appointed maestro di capella at the Santa Casa dell’Annunziata, a post he held for the rest of his life. On the evidence of surviving music he appears to have been the first Neapolitan composer to use violins in church motets and was also an innovator (in this city) in the use of virtuosic solo voices in sacred music. Of the music recorded here, ‘Angelorum esca’ is an attractive example of a motet (for 3 voices) in which vocal and instrumental resources are thoroughly integrated, while the excellent Roberta Invernezzi shows, in, for example, ‘Ecce panis angelorum’ and ‘Crux fidelis’, just how lovely Sabino’s writing for solo voice can be. Giovanni Maria Sabino’s younger brother Antonio (sometimes recorded as Antonino) Sabino followed a similar career path. Like his older brother he was ordained priest; in 1635 he was appointed organist at the Santa Casa dell’Annunziata (where Giovanni Maria was then maestro di capella). For some time in the 1640s he taught at the Conservatorio dei Poveri di Gesł Cristo, before becoming maestro of the Monte degli Agonizzanti in S Maria a Cellaro in 1646. Shortly before his death he succeeded Giovanni Maria as maestro of the Santa Casa dell’Annunziata. To my ears, at least, Antonio’s music is somewhat less interesting and satisfying than that of his older brother. It is simpler, and in the words of the specialist scholar Dinko Fabris (author of such works as La Musica a Napoli durante il Seicento, Naples: 1985) in his booklet notes to this CD, it has an “archaic flavour, and chordal and homophonic movement”, lacking the rhythmic vitality of Giovanni Maria’s best writing. A third member of the Sabino family is also represented here. This is Francesco Sabino. Until relatively recently his exact relationship to the other Sabinos was unclear, but it is now known that he was the son of another brother of Giovanni Maria and Antonio, making him the nephew of both. He played a busy part in the musical life of Naples life of Naples without ever, it seems, finding the kind of high-status appointments that both his uncles held. His ‘Scitote Quoniam Dominus’ - a setting of part of the Jubilate Deo - has an attractive vivacity, without being especially memorable.

Of the other composers represented, perhaps the best known is Andrea Falconieri, who, in contrast to the Sabinos, led a somewhat vagrant life. He was born in Naples, but the earliest record of his musical life finds him working at the Farnese court in Parma from around 1604. He seems to have abandoned that post in 1615 and in succeeding years he pops up, as a lutenist and a composer, in Florence, Mantua, Rome and Modena before, in 1621, making his way to France and Spain, leaving behind his wife and a young child. He later returned to Italy, working in Genoa and elsewhere before being appointed theorbist and lutenist of the Royal Chapel in the city of his birth in 1639; in 1647 he was made maestro of that Chapel. More famous for his songs and instrumental music than for his church music, Falconieri’s ‘sacred’ works share the “same cantabile and dance style found in his secular compositions” to quote Fabris once more – another of his publications is a monograph on Falconieri, published in Rome in 1987: Andrea Falconieri napoletano: Un liutista-compositore dei Seocento. More than a little of the dance can be heard in Falconieri’s motet ‘Quae est ista’; Falconieri approaches the verse from the Song of Solomon (6.10) very much in the spirit of Monteverdi, though falling well short of that great composer’s sophisticated panache. There is a good deal of dancing vitality to be heard in the ‘Gaudeamus omnes’ by Bonaventura Cerronio (of whom I know nothing) which opens the disc as well as in the ‘Jesu Corona coelsior’ by Giovanni Maria Sabino which closes it (the only time we hear all four singers in the one piece).

This is a well-planned disc, mixing motets in a variety of styles with plainchant, an instrumental sinfonia (by Falconieri) and a partita for harpsichord (by Scipione Stella); it is both highly enjoyable and also valuable for the light it throws on a still relatively neglected area of early baroque music. It thoroughly merits its reissue in Glossa’s ‘Cabinet’ series. As one would expect from Antonio Florio and I Turchini the performances are authoritatively idiomatic and insightful.

Glyn Pursglove
Bonaventura CERRONIO (fl.1639)
Gaudeamus omnes a 2 voci con doi violini
Hic Franciscus pauper
Francesco SABINO (c.1618-after 1660)
Franciscus servus Christi a 3 voci con sinfonia
ANONYMOUS (17th century)
O beate Januari
Antonino SABINO (1591-1650)
Beatus Januarius Christi Martyr a 3
Beatus Januarius
Antonino SABINO (1591-1650)
Jubilate coelestes chori a 3 voci con sinfonia
Andrea FALCONIERI (c.1585-1656)
Sinfonia seconda
Giovanni Maria SABINO (1588-1649)
O sacrum convivium a voce sola
Scipione STELLA (c.1558-1622)
Canzon seconda
Francesco SABINO (c.1618-after 1660)
Scitote quoniam Dominus
Giovanni Maria SABINO (1588-1649)
Crux fidelis a voce sola
Scipione STELLA (c.1558-1622)
Canzon prima
Giovanni Maria SABINO (1588-1649)
Repleatur os meum a voce sola
Giovanni Maria SABINO (1588-1649)
Cantate Domino a 2 voci
Sancti angeli custodens
Giovanni Maria SABINO (1588-1649)
Angelorum esca a 3 voci
Ecce panis angelorum a voce sola
Scipione STELLA (c.1558-1622)
Diverse partite sull’aria della Romanesca
Andrea FALCONIERI (c.1585-1656)
Quae est ista a 2 voci
ANONYMOUS (17th century)
Giovanni Maria (?) SABINO
Jesu Corona coelsior a 4 voci



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