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Motetti e Canzoni Virtuose
La Guilde des Mercenaires/Adrien Mabire
rec. 2017, Abbey de Saint-Amant de Boize, Clarente, France.
ENCELADE ECL1703 [67.04]

The raison d’etre for the assembling of this disc and for the repertoire chosen is, as the group’s director Adrien Mabire tells us in the very helpful booklet essay, his belief that instrumental music in the early baroque would be more effectively heard and more comfortably performed, if the keyboard continuo used was a larger organ instead of the usual, more easily portable, positive organ. He points out that wind instrumentalists especially are now more able to use a wider range of sounds and dynamics and the performers are now freer in their choice of instrumentation. So the question arose, which organ, typical of the early 17th Century could be used for such a project?

We are talking here of music largely written for ceremony, mostly sacred events, and not really for a concert or private format. But no matter where the pieces were first heard we must tackle the word ‘Canzona’ first. Definitions vary and you might be surprised to read that despite the CD title, many of the selected pieces are called ‘Sonatas’. These tend to be longer and more sectionalised for example the Sonata Sestadecima a tre by Fontana is in five sections with a sort of coda. And although this is a generalisation, Canzonas tend to be mainly in one tempo and as a consequence sometimes shorter. The other question is, is the organ really necessary for such pieces? Some of you will not doubt know Canzonas by Giovanni Gabrieli for example that are played just by brass and/or strings. There are also Canzonas for keyboard only by amongst others, Frescobaldi.

But these recorded pieces are different. The continuo for these canzonas and sonatas consists of the bass line and harmonies played by the organ alone, the choice of which of course dictated the recording venue at the Renaissance Abbey of St. Andrew de Boixe in the Clarente region of central France. The organ is pictured within with with its interesting specification including ‘nazard’ and a ‘trumpet’ stop. It is based on a 1511 Koblenz organ, which sits, curiously, in the triforium of the St.Laurenskerk in Alkmaar in Holland, a church with in fact two historic organs. Even the decorated case is inspired by a 1501 design. There is also a pedal board.

Mabire also says that the project offered a chance to record pieces he has been attracted by for some time and he highlights the canzoni featuring the bassoon, like the lively Sonata prima by the bassoonist Bertoli who was born exactly 350 years ago. There is also a wonderfully sonorous Sonata per due soprano a basso by Cima which uses the bombardine as well as the bassoon and cornet. The cornet is featured elsewhere as in Castello’s Sonata seconda and the recorders, which beautifully accompany Violaine Le Chenedec in Palestrina’s ‘Pulcra es amica mea’. She, incidentally, has a light and evenly toned vocal quality, which is ideal for this repertoire. Its followed by a gentle set of divisions on it by Francesco Rognoni which group director Adrien Mabire plays elegantly on the cornet.

Le Chenadec also sings a version of Rore’s celebrated madrigal ‘Ancor che col partire’ with the cornet playing the upper part and the voice singing the tenor an octave higher which works quite pleasingly and the organ on the other two parts – a fascinating sound – and also the equally famous ‘Susanne un jour’ by Lassus, with the organ supplying the three lower lines. The disc opens in fact with a version, with bassoon divisions on this song, by the little known Tartaglino. They also can also be termed diminutions and Palestrina’s ‘Vestiva I colli’ is given in a version with virtuoso flute melismas above the voice line.

Some of the composers represented lived in Venice, while others were associated with Rome and Verona and it is fascinating to have names which are rarely encountered and in such musically sensitive performances exploring a wide variety of textures and forms all closely and vividly conveyed by the recording engineers. None of the song texts, unfortunately, are given.

Gary Higginson

Ippolito TARTAGLIONE (c.1559-1582) Canzon supra Susanna [2.42]
Orlando di LASSUS (1532-1594) Susanne un jour [3.13]
Giovanni Battista FONTANA (c.1570-1649) Sonata terzedecima [4.51]
Giovanni VALENTINI (c.1582-1649) Canzon a sei [3.48]
Giovanni Paolo CIMA (c.1570-1622) Sonata per violin and basso [4.39]
Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA (c.1525-1594) Vestiva I colli (with divisions by Giovanni Bassano (c.1588-1617)
Dario CASTELLO (c.1590-c.1630) Sonata seconda [5.14]
PALESTRINA- Pulcra es amica me [4.01]
With diminutions by Francesco ROGNONI (before 1626) [5.58]
FONTANA :Sonata sestadecima a tre [5.18]
Cypriano de RORE (c.1515-1565) Ancor che col partire [3.20]
with divisions by Francesco ROGNONI (c.1570-1626)
CIMA Sonata per due soprani e basso [3.32]
Biagio MARINI (1595-1663) Sonata per cornetto e organo [3.20]
Giovanni Antonio BERTOLI ( 1605-1669) Sonata prima [5.47]
Giovanni Antonio RICCIO (c.1600-after 1621) Jubilent Omnes [4.12]

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