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Carlo FARINA (c1600–1639)
Consort Music 1627
Brandi a 4 [09:02]
Pavana seconda [06:40]
Galliarda sesta - settima - sesta [02:52]
Corrente seconda, quarta, seconda [02:31]
Volta prima à 4 [01:37]
Aria franzesa seconda [03:32]
Mascherada à 4 [09:58]
Sonata prima 'La Greca' [08:03]
Pavana seconda à 4 [05:12]
Galliarda terza à 4 [01:06]
Pavana tertia à 4 [06:52]
Galliarda prima, tertia, sesta [06:14]
Balletto Allemanno [03:02]
Bourrée I - Bourrée II [03:30]
Volta prima à 4 (1628) [01:17]
Accademia del Ricercare/Pietro Busca
rec. 17–19 April 2015, Chiesa di Santa Maria, Romano Canavese (TO), Italy
CPO 555 034-2 [72:00]

Part of the musical changes which took place in Italy in the early 17th century was the emergence of virtuosic and idiomatic music for specific instruments such as the cornett and the violin. One of the exponents of this development was Carlo Farina who was educated as a violinist and made a career in this capacity in Italy and Germany. Especially through his activities in Dresden, at the court where Heinrich Schütz was Kapellmeister, he laid the foundation of what was to become the German-Austrian violin school. One of its later exponents was Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber.

During his relatively short life—he died of the plague around the age of 40—he worked at various places. He was born in Mantua and it seems likely that he took lessons from Salomone Rossi, one of the violinists at the court of the Gonzagas, where Claudio Monteverdi had written and performed, among others, his first opera L'Orfeo. In 1625 Farina became violinist at the court in Dresden. Probably as a result of the Thirty Years War he returned to Italy, then went to Danzig and after only a couple of years to Vienna, where he died in 1639.

The largest part of his oeuvre is included in the five books with instrumental pieces which were published between 1626 and 1628 in Dresden. Although he was a brilliant violinist only ten sonatas—included in the first, fourth and fifth books—and his famous Capriccio stravagante are specifically intended for violins. The other pieces can be played on a variety of instruments and belong among the category of consort music which was popular across Europe. In fact, this part of his repertoire is rooted in the prima prattica of the 16th century, whereas the sonatas are specimens of the modern concertato style.

The documentation of the present disc is rather poor and as a result it is hard to say what exactly we get to hear here. The title refers to 1627, the year when two of Farina's five books were printed. The subtitle in the track-list says that the pieces in the programme are taken from the third book. However, it includes the Sonata I La Greca which is from the first book. Moreover, the liner-notes say: "In order to follow the custom of Farina's era and to make the listening experience as varied and enjoyable as possible, these compositions are not being performed here in the order in which they were published, but in two suites, as homogeneous as possible, of pieces taken from four of the five books". In fact the programme doesn't mention any suites and the way they are played doesn't suggest any connection between the various pieces, not even between pavana and galliarda, a common pairing at the time. The liner-notes also refer to several sonatas which are not recorded here. One gets the impression that these notes are written for a different occasion—a live concert?—or that since they have been written the concept of the programme has been changed. This is really odd. The result is that we get various pieces with the same titles without any indication as from which books they are taken.

The first track includes brandi à 4. The word brando is the Italian equivalent of bran(s)le, a common dance of the renaissance. This track takes almost nine minutes, so this is in fact a sequence of brandi. I assume they are from different books but we are not told how many there are. In other tracks we hear various gaillardas, sometimes with the same title but different music, such as Gaillarda sesta - settima - sesta. This is all quite confusing. There is also no indication as to which instruments are used in the various pieces. Obviously the sonata is played with two violins and bc; notable are the echo effects which were also quite popular in Italian opera. The ensuing Pavana II and Gaillarda III are performed with a consort of recorders. In most pieces we hear a 'broken consort', as it was called in England: a mixture of wind and string instruments. In some pieces percussion is added.

The poor documentation is all the more regrettable as this is a very fine disc. Farina's music is most enjoyable and of good quality; this is a disc you would like to return to on a regular basis. It is musical entertainment of the highest order. It receives engaging performances; there is really no dull moment here. The members of the Accademia del Ricercare are brilliant performers on a variety of instruments: recorders, transverse flutes, viole da gamba, bagpipes, theorbo, harpsichord and percussion. The use of a cello seems a bit questionable but that hardly matters.

A disc of this quality deserves a better presentation.

Johan van Veen



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