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Maurizio CAZZATI (1616-1678)
Amor Profano, Amor Sacro - Secular and Sacred Vocal Music
Eridanus/Paolo Giorgi
rec. 2017, Confraternita dei Santi Rocco e Sebastiano, Cumiana, Turin
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 95586 [2 CDs: 115:08]

Over many years of reviewing discs and attending concerts, I have seldom encountered the music of Maurizio Cazzati. In fact, the disc that I reviewed a couple of years ago, was the very first devoted entirely to his music that I had ever heard. Before that, I had heard only pieces which were part of anthologies. The disc just mentioned included pieces from one of his collections of sacred music, the Messa e salmi op. 36 of 1661. The present recording offers a survey of his oeuvre: the first disc is devoted to secular music, the second to sacred repertoire, and on both, the vocal items are separated by samples from his instrumental oeuvre.

Cazzati was born in Luzzara (today Lucera), near Reggio nell'Emilia, part of the duchy of Guastalla. Here he was appointed as organist at S Pietro at the age of 17. He was ordained a priest and then acted as maestro di cappella in several cities: Mantua, Ferrara and Bergamo. In 1657 he moved to Bologna where he became maestro di cappella of the Basilica S Petronio. Apparently, this did not meet with universal approval. It is impossible to be sure what caused the trouble he was part of in Bologna. He was criticized for his treatment of counterpoint, but it is quite likely that this was just a red herring, and rather, the resistance to his presence was personal. It is remarkable that a composer of his stature did not become a member of the Accademia Filarmonica which was founded in 1666. Although he initially enjoyed the support of the vestry board of S Petronio, he was dismissed in 1671 and returned to Mantua. Here he acted as maestro di cappella at the Cathedral and maestro di cappella di camera to Duchess Anna Isabella Gonzaga until his death in 1678.

Cazzati has left a large oeuvre; he contributed to every genre in vogue in his time. It is notable that he took the printing of his music into his own hands: during his time in Bologna he had a printing press in his official residence. He continued his activities in this field in Mantua. A look at his oeuvre reveals that he was ahead of his time in several respects. He was the first to compose sonatas for solo violin and basso continuo. Several of these are included in this recording (op. 55; not op. 45, as the track-list says). He was also one of the first to publish trio sonatas (op. 18). A striking feature of his sonatas is that they consist of clearly separated movements. Some of his instrumental pieces are based on a basso ostinato, such as Passacaglio (op. 22) and ciaccona (op. 4), but also on bass patterns of his own making (Capriccio sopra sette note, Capriccio sopra sedici note).

The thread of the first disc, as the vocal music is concerned, is pieces from the Op. 43, entitled Il quarto libro delle canzonette. The canzonetta was a rather light-hearted form of secular music, and that comes to the fore here in the treatment of the texts, which are about various sorts of lovers, such as “The thieving lover” (L'amante ladro), “The deceitful lover” (L'amante spergiuro) and “The lazy lover” (L'amante pigro). Alessio Tosi is the ideal interpreter: his light and flexible voice perfectly suits the character of these pieces, and he finds exactly the right approach to put their content across.

The second disc comprises specimens of Cazzati's sacred music, again separated by instrumental pieces. In this part of his oeuvre, Cazzati also points to the future. The disc opens with Che fo, che tardo, a cantata for Christmas. It is taken from a collection of moral and spiritual cantatas in the vernacular, published as the Op. 20 in 1659. What is remarkable here is the use of the recitative. Composers before Cazzati had written recitatives, but they were not clearly separated from more lyrical episodes. "A clear separation of recitative monody from more lyrical writing appeared only gradually during the 17th century, with many passages sharing qualities of both recitative and aria (...)", according to New Grove. Cazzati must have been one of the first to separate the recitative from a section with the character of an aria, as is the case here. The Madrigale al Crocefisso and Già la nova improvvisa, a cantata for the apostle St Thomas, have the same structure. It is nice to hear that Alessio Tosi takes the right amount of rhythmic freedom in the recitatives, producing a really speechlike performance.

On this disc we also find liturgical pieces, either from a collection of hymns for the ecclesiastical year (op. 29) or from a set of antiphons for the Virgin Mary (op. 42). Here we hear not only Tosi but also the mezzo-soprano Marta Redaelli, who has a lovely voice, and does everything right in these pieces. Ave maris stella is an alternatim piece: the even verses are sung in plainchant by Tosi. For some reason I don't understand, he is placed somewhere in the background. In most of the sacred works the singers are accompanied by basso continuo alone. In Ut queant laxis and in the Salve Regina which closes the programme, the two violins also participate.

"Maurizio Cazzati is one of the most underrated composers of the 17th century and yet one of the most prolific". That is the first sentence of the liner-notes in the booklet to the present production. It is right on both accounts. As I indicated in the first paragraph, discs with music by Cazzati are pretty rare, and this twofer offers an ideal opportunity to become acquainted with his output. These very fine singers and excellent players of recorder, strings and basso continuo instruments turn out to be the perfect advocates for the music of this neglected composer. This production is also a nice supplement to the disc I mentioned above, as we get here only music for a small line-up, whereas the Claves disc focuses on larger-scale music. I am not saying that Cazzati is one of the greatest masters of the 17th century, but the sharp criticism of modern scholars seems highly exaggerated. It is to be hoped that this production will contribute to a more fair and balanced judgment of Cazzati's oeuvre and his qualities as a composer.

Johan van Veen

CD 1
Capriccio detta Il Melara [op. 50, 1669] [01:21]
Sonetto sopra Sì e NO [op. 27, 1661] [04:02]
L'amante ladro [op. 43, 1667] [01:50]
Capriccio sopra sette note [op. 22, 1660] [05:52]
L'amante povero [op. 43, 1667] [02:15]
L'amante consigliero [op. 43, 1667] [01:55]
Passacaglio [op. 22, 1660] [03:26]
L'amante spergiuro [op. 43, 1667] [02:01]
L'amante sdegnato [op. 43, 1667] [04:16]
Corrente I - Corrente X - Corrente IX [op. 30, 1662] [02:54]
L'amante incostante [op. 43, 1667] [03:21]
L'amante pigro [op. 43, 1667] [04:09]
Corrente La Guastallesa - Corrente La Gonzaga - Corrente La Luzzara [op. 4, 1647/59] [03:15]
Barzelletta a donne crudele [op. 41, 1666] 01:52]
Barzelletta a quel core ch'arde d'Amore [op. 46, 1668] [02:08]
Sonata La Varana [op. 18, 1656] [03:25]
L'amante vecchio [op. 43, 1667] [03:46]
L'amante musico [op. 43, 1667] [01:43]
Ciaccona - Ballo della Ciaccona [op. 4, 1647/59] [03:04]

CD 2
Che fo, che tardo?, Cantata per il giorno di Natale [op. 20, 1659] [05:31]
Ut queant laxis [op. 29, 1662] [03:55]
Madrigale a Crocifisso [op. 20, 1662] [02:55]
Sonata La Pellicana [op. 55, 1670] [04:11]
Ave virgo Maria [op. 6, 1648] [06:08]
Ave maris stella [op. 29, 1662] [05:37]
Capriccio sopra sedici note [op. 18, 1656] [04:48]
Già la nova improvvisa, Cantata per S. Tommaso apostolo [op. 20, 1662] [04:51]
Sonata La Nanna [op. 55, 1670] [04:45]
Ave Regina coelorum [op. 42, 1667] [04:16]
Sanctorum meritis [op. 29, 1662] [03:15]
Salve Regina [op. 42, 1667] [08:13]

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