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The Heritage of Monteverdi
La Fenice/Jean Tubéry
rec. 1995-2000
Texts and translations available online
RICERCAR RIC374 [7 CDs: 432:30]

In the second half of the 1990s Ricercar released a series of recordings by the ensemble La Fenice, directed by Jean Tubéry, with Italian music from the late 16th to the mid-17th century. The title of this series was 'The heritage of Monteverdi'. This is a little imprecise: it suggests that the composers whose compositions are included in these recordings, were influenced by Monteverdi, but that is questionable. Some were indeed, such as Francesco Cavalli, but most of the composers were Monteverdi's contemporaries. They participated in and contributed to the same stylistic development that manifests itself in the oeuvre of Monteverdi. "Monteverdi and his time" would have been a more appropriate title.

The first disc is devoted to the genre of the dialogue. Originally this was a form of vocal music. Since early times texts with elements of a dialogue - for instance from the Gospels - had been set to music, but it was only in the 16th century that composers started to allocate the participants in a dialogue to different voices, for instance through the splitting of the choir into two opposing groups (cori spezzati). The monody, which made its entrance around 1600, allowed composers to set a dialogue in a more dramatic way. At the same time, the tendency to write in a more virtuosic way for instruments resulted in a large repertoire of pieces for two or more melody instruments and basso continuo, which did not play in ensemble but rather in a kind of conversation with each other. The instrumental dialogue was born. The programme includes several striking examples of a juxtapostion of the treble instruments in early 17th-century music. Here the ensemble has chosen pieces with two different instruments: the violin and the cornett. These not only were the most venerated instruments of the time, they were also considered perfectly suited to imitate the human voice.

In between these dialogues we find some items for a solo instrument, for instance a keyboard (Picchi) or a plucked instrument (Kapsberger). Most of them are performed with two instruments, which take care of different parts. Apparently this way the performers wanted to underline the concept of a dialogue. Although I don't think that it is wrong to perform them this way, it seems a bit too demonstrative, and this manner of performing them could well have been the exception rather than the rule.

The highly expressive seconda pratica was almost tailor-made for music for Holy Week, which is the subject of the second disc. Chromaticism and dissonances were ideally suited to depict the pain of Mary at the sight of her suffering son. The Stabat mater by Giovanni Felice Sances is a perfect example. The disc opens with O vos omnes, a setting of one of the responsories for Holy Week by Alessandro Grandi. It is dominated by a repeated descending chromatic line. Dic mihi, sacratissima virgo is a dialogue by Francesco Capello, in which the soprano takes the role of Mary. O sacrum convivium, in echo by Giovanni Paolo Cima is also a kind of dialogue, between the protagonist and the echo. This was often used to create a kind of dialogue between different characters - or between a character and his inner self - despite the scoring for a single voice. Jean Tubéry, in his liner-notes, states that an echo is "[a] type of aural memory, it found its place in religious music as a rhetorical figure for reminiscence". One wonders, then, why that echo part is performed instrumentally. The vocal items are separated by instrumental pieces which are not specifically intended for Passiontide. However, their character suits this programme, for instance because of their dissonances, such as Francesco Turini's Sonata seconda.

The last section of the programme is devoted to Easter, starting with Monteverdi's Et resurrexit, and including one of his best-known solo concertos, Laudate Dominum. It ends with a piece by the rather little-known Michel'Angelo Grancini, Exultate Christo adiutori nostro. Here we hear the voices of tenor and bass, not of soprano and tenor, as the track-list says. It is one of the many errors in the booklet.

Biagio Marini was one of the main representatives of the new style. He was a brilliant violinist, who in one of his sonatas covers a range of more than three octaves, whereas one and a half was about the maximum at the time. The title of his Op. 1, Affetti musicali, is programmatic: the expression of human emotions (affetti) was the main objective of composers of vocal music, and Marini aimed at a translation of this ideal to instrumental music. The third disc includes specimens from his oeuvre. In the Canzon VIII he mixes the tradition of the cori spezzati technique with the new ideals. In the Capriccio per 2 violini each of the two violins has to play two parts. Harmony was an important tool for the expression of human emotions, and the most striking example is the Ligature e durezze. In the Sonata II Marini makes use of chromaticism. The programme also includes two vocal pieces, which document some specific features of the new style. In the madrigal Grotte ombrose, the vocal and the instrumental parts both have two echos. Miserere mei Deus is one of the penitential psalms. Marini's setting is for three voices and basso continuo, and has a strongly declamatory character. It is a graphic application of the ideal of recitar cantando, speech-like singing, which was advocated by Giulio Caccini, one of the fathers of the stile nuovo.

Another composer who applied the principles of the seconda pratica to instrumental music, was Dario Castello. He was the director of the wind ensemble of San Marco, and it is assumed that he played the bassoon by profession, which could explain the notably virtuosic bassoon parts in his sonatas. His extant oeuvre includes two collections of 29 sonatas in total. They are intended for professional players and each consists of a sequence of contrasting sections, one of the hallmarks of the stylus phantasticus. There is quite some variety as far as the character of the sonatas is concerned. One of them is a battaglia, a genre which was very popular during the 17th century. Another popular device was the echo, which we already encountered. In one of his sonatas Castello creates a dialogue between a cornett and a violin and their respective echoes. Whereas in many instrumental pieces of the time the line-up was left to the performers, Castello specifies the scoring for each sonata. Notable are the virtuosic parts of instruments which in the past were mostly used in a supportive role: the dulcian (or bassoon) and the sackbut (or trombone).

The fifth disc is again devoted to vocal music, this time for Christmastide. In the pieces selected here we meet the characters from the Christmas story: the angels, the shepherds and Mary. The music is written according to the monodic principles which were originally intended for secular music. We notice several features of the stile nuovo. The interest in drama, which gave birth to opera, manifests itself in the writing of dialogues, for instance between the angel Gabriel and Mary (Donati, Angelus Gabriel descendit). The use of a basso ostinato was very popular at the time (Merula, Hor che tempo di dormire). One of the basic principles of the new style is that the text reigns supreme, and the music is its servant. This explains the graphic depiction of the text in many pieces (Tarditi, Volate caelites). Although the early 17th century saw the birth of independent instrumental music, composers still liked to take vocal models for all sorts of arrangements (Scarani, Sonata 15 sopra lucis creator optime; anonymous, Parton dall'oriente tre Re per adorar, based on the popular song La Monicha). Instruments are also given obbligato parts in sacred concertos, and these are often no less virtuosic than the vocal parts.

In the course of the 16th century, composers frequently set texts from the pen of Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374). Jean Tubéry, in his liner-notes, calls it the "golden age of 'Petrarchism'", which he sees being concluded with Monteverdi's Hor che'l ciel e la terra. That work concludes the programme on the sixth disc. Before that we hear a setting of another famous text by Petrarca, Solo e pensoso, this time by the little-known composer Nicolo Borboni. The central figure in Petrarca's poetry is Laura, of whom experts still don't know whether she really existed or was rather an idealised character. She apparently died of the plague, and this inspired Petrarca to La bella donna, here performed in a version by Camillo Lambardi. The first half of the programme includes some very different pieces, such as the monodies by Gagliano, Peri and D'India, which strongly contrast with the strophic A qualunque animali by Stefano Landi, in which the tenor is accompanied by a guitar. During the renaissance and early baroque periods, secular love poetry and texts in honour of the Virgin Mary are sometimes hardly discernable. Petrarca's Vergine bella, here performed in a setting by Marco da Gagliano, is not fundamentally different from contemporary settings of Petrarca's secular poems. This piece is followed by diminutions from the pen of Oratio Bassani, an example of a highly popular genre at the time (like Ancidetemi pur by Giovanni Maria Trabaci), and one of several instrumental pieces, performed in alternation with the vocal items.

The subject of the last disc is not music in the first place, but rather Monteverdi's connections to the rulers of his time, and in particular the Habsburg emperors in Vienna, Ferdinand II and Ferdinand III. Monteverdi's family was from Cremona, which at the time was part of the Habsburg Spanish empire. Monteverdi visited the courts in Innsbruck and Prague, and contributed to a collection of music for Archduke Maximilian-Ernst, brother of the future emperor Ferdinand II, in 1617. In Monteverdi's oeuvre we find the traces of his connections to the Habsburg rulers, most explicitly in his madrigal Altri canti d'amor, which closes with the line: "O great Ferdinand, the proud choir relates in song to your sublime valour". It is included in the eighth book of madrigals, the Madrigali guerrieri et amorosi, dedicated to the imperial family, and published in 1638, one year after Ferdinand III had succeeded his father. This piece concludes the seventh disc and this entire production. The connections between Monteverdi and the Habsburg emperors were reason to select instrumental pieces by other composers who were in different ways associated with the court in Vienna. The emperors were under the spell of Italian music and attracted the best Italian composers and performers. We get here some brilliant instrumental works by the likes of Priuli, Buonamente, Castello and Ferro.

It is a shame that the production leaves something to be desired. The booklet omits the lyrics; fortunately they are included in the digital booklet that is available for download from the site of the distributor. As I have already noted above, the booklet includes several errors. There are also some mistakes in the English translations of the original French liner-notes. For instance, the word chalumeau is left unchanged in the English translation. However, in English (and German) this term is used for an instrument which was popular in the mid-18th century. In the case of music of the 16th and 17th centuries, it has to be translated as shawm.

These recordings date from the late 1990s. At that time a large part of the repertoire performed here was hardly known. The main exceptions were the oeuvre of Monteverdi and the instrumental works of Marini and Castello. Since then, much has changed, but even today a number of composers included here are anything but familiar. That is one of the reasons that the reissue of these recordings is of great importance. This production also offers the opportunity to put Monteverdi in his historical context, showing that he was not unique, although certainly at the very top in vocal music. Moreover, this set can serve as a survey of the features of the seconda pratica in all genres favoured at the time, except opera: sacred and secular vocal music, works for instrumental ensemble and music for solo instruments. At the time these recordings were first released, not that many ensembles were up to the challenge of this repertoire, both technically and stylistically. In this department, much has changed as well. However, the performances by La Fenice are still very impressive. The playing of Jean Tubéry and his colleagues is really excellent and these performances can easily compete with what has come on the market more recently. Tubéry had a good nose for singers who were able to realise the intentions of the composers. The soloists involved here were top of the bill in early music at the time (and some still are). There are many reasons to strongly recommend this set to anyone who does not have the original discs.

Johan van Veen

CD 1: Dialoghi Venetiani

Giuseppe SCARANI (fl 1628-1642)
Sonata sesta per due canti [05:04]
Giovanni PICCHI (1600-1625)
Passamezzo [04:38]
Biagio MARINI (1587-1663)
Sonata terza per violini o cornetti [05:02]
Giovanni Girolamo KAPSBERGER (1580-1651)
Bergamasca [04:09]
Francesco CAVALLI (1601-1676)
Sonata a 3 [05:59]
Giovanni Girolamo KAPSBERGER
Passacaglio [02:47]
Dario CASTELLO (fl 1620-1630)
Sonata prima per canto solo [04:42]
Marco UCCELLINI (1603-1680)
Aria per la Bergamasca [04:14]
Sonata per il violino solo, per sonare con due corde [06:48]
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643)
Venite siscientes [04:10]
Alessandro PICCININI (1566-1638)
Salomone ROSSI (1570-1630)
Sonata in dialogo, detta la Viena [03:38]
Sonata terza per due soprani [05:21]
Tarquinio MERULA (1594-1665)
Chiaccona a 3 [02:52]

CD 2: Per la Settimana Santa

Alessandro GRANDI (1575/80-1630)
O vos omnes [08:12]
Francesco TURINI (1589-1656)
Sonata seconda [06:28]
Giovanni Paolo CIMA (1570-1622)
O sacrum convivium, in echo [03:23]
Giovanni SALVATORE (?-1688)
Durezze e ligature [01:38]
Francesco CAPELLO (fl 1610-1619)
Dic mihi, sacratissima virgo [03:58]
Giovanni Felice SANCES (1600-1679)
Stabat mater dolorosa [12:31]
Giovanni Paolo CIMA
Sonata per cornetto e trombone [04:47]
Madrigale spirituale: Peccator pentito [02:06]
Alessandro PICCININI
Passacaglio [01:39]
Domenico MAZZOCCHI (1592-1665)
Lagrime amare (La Maddalena ricorre alle lagrime) [05:02]
Adriano BANCHIERI (1568-1734)
Mulier, cur ploras hic [02:25]
Et resurrexit, a 4 [01:42]
Bonifazio GRAZIANI (1604/05-1664)
Regina coeli laetare [03:53]
Laudate Dominum, a voce sola [04:00]
Maurizio CAZZATI (1620-1677)
Capriccio sopra 7 note [05:57]
Toccata per organo [01:52]
Michel Angelo GRANCINI (1605-1669)
Exultate Christo adiutori nostri [02:32]

CD 3: Biagio MARINI: Moderne e curiose inventioni

Canzon octava [02:54]
Sonata seconda, violino e cornetto [04:16]
[anon] Madre non mi far monaca [00:40]
Sonata sopra la Monica [04:33]
Aria La Soranza [02:14]
Capriccio per 2 violini che suonano quattro parti [04:33]
Grotte ombrose, madrigale in echo con sinfonie [05:19]
Sonata per organo e cornetto [03:40]
Sonata La Foscarina [04:50]
Ligature e durezze [01:50]
Canzon prima a quattro cornetti [03:15]
Sinfonia: Passacalio a quattro [04:01]
Miserere a tre voci [12:45]

CD 4: Dario CASTELLO: In stil moderno

Sonata decima sexta per strumento d'arco e altri [05:10]
Sonata seconda per due soprani [04:41]
Exultate Deo, motetto a voce sola [03:24]
Sonata seconda per soprano solo [04:53]
Sonata decima quinta per stromenti d'arco [05:11]
Sonata decima settima per due violini e due cornetti in ecco [07:06]
Sonata undecima per due violini e trombono [04:48]
Sonata decima per due soprani e fagotto [05:16]
Sonata quarta per due soprani [06:09]
Sonata duodecima per due soprani e trombono [07:26]

CD 5: Per il Santissimo Natale

Ignazio DONATI (c1575-1638)
Angelus Gabriel descendit [05:56]
Maurizio CAZZATI
Alma redemptoris mater [05:37]
Angelus ad pastores ait [01:12]
Adriano BANCHIERI (1568-1634)
Intonuit de caelo [02:57]
Bernardo STORACE (?-?)
Pastorale [04:57]
Antonio CIFRA (1584-1629)
Quem vidistis pastores? [02:44]
Orazio TARDITI (1602-1677)
Volate caelites [06:57]
Giovanni PICCHI
Sonata a tre, due violini e flauto [04:04]
Jesu Redemptor omnium [03:47]
Giuseppe SCARANI (?-?)
Sonata 15 sopra lucis creator optime [05:43]
Tarquinio MERULA (1594-1665)
Jesu dulcis memoria [03:00]
Francesco FIAMENGO (fl 1632-1637)
Sonata pastorale a 4 [03:22]
Tarquinio MERULA
Hor che tempo di dormire [08:46]
Parton dall'oriente tre Re per adorar [04:24]
Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643)
Partita prima sopra l'aria di Monicha [00:57]
Giovanni Antonio RIGATTI (1615-1649)
Nunc dimittis [04:39]

CD 6: Il Canzoniere - La poesia di Francesco Petrarca nei seicento

Marco DA GAGLIANO (1582-1643)
Io vidi in terra Angelici costumi [03:09]
Salomone ROSSI (1570-1630)
Sonata sopra l'aria di Ruggiero [03:23]
Jacopo PERI (1561-1633)
In qual parte del ciel [03:40]
Tarquinio MERULA
La Treccia [03:57]
Sigismondo D'INDIA (1582-1629)
Benedetto sia'l giorno [03:07]
Stefano LANDI (1587-1639)
A qualunque animale: aria di cantar sestine [03:36]
Giovanni Battista RICCIO (fl 1609-1621)
Canzon a doi soprani in echo [03:09]
Martino PESENTI (c1600-c1648)
Balletto per soprano e basso/
Due rose fresche, e colte in Paradiso [06:02]
Giovanni Maria TRABACI (c1575-1647)
Ancidetemi pur [04:24]
Camillo LAMBARDI (c1560-1634)
La bella donna s'e da me partita [02:51]
Nicolo BORBONI (fl 1614-1641)
Solo e pensoso [04:55]
Sigismondo D'INDIA
Voi ch'ascoltate in rime sparse [03:07]
Vergine bella, che di sol vestiva [02:37]
Oratio BASSANI (c1550-1615)
Vergine bella di Cipriano de Rore diminuito per la viola [03:47]
Hor che'l ciel e la terra [07:37]

CD 7: Concerto Imperiale

Giovanni Battista BUONAMENTE (?-1642)
Intrada a 6 doi cornetti & quattro tromboni [00:50]
Sonata decima quarta due soprani e doi tromboni [06:05]
Giovanni PRIULI (c1575-1629)
Ave pulcherrima Virgo, motetto passeggiato à 5) [02:39]
Sonata prima in due cori [04:37]
Sonata decima terza due soprani edoi tromboni [07:27]
Giovanni Battista BUONAMENTE
Sonata a tre sopra il Ballo del grand ducca [06:31]
Marco Antonio FERRO (?-1662)
Sonata decima due violini, violetta da braccio e tiorba [04:09]
Sonada undecima due cornetti, trombone & fagotto [04:23]
Passamezzo a due per soprano e basso
Massimilano NERI (c1615-1666)
Sonata a otto due violini, violetta, tre flauti e tiorba [07:20]
Altri canti d'amor, madrigale concertato a sei voci [09:15]

Laure Delcampe, Salome Haller, Raphaëlle Kennedy, María Cristina Kiehr (soprano), Kathelijne Van Laethem (mezzo-soprano), Jürgen Banholzer, Pascal Berthin (alto), Stephan Van Dyck, Jan Van Elsacker, John Elwes, Hervé Lamy, Hans Jörg Mammel (tenor), Stephan MacLeod, Ullrich Messthaler, Jean-Claude Saragosse (bass)

Recording venues
Alte Kirche, Boswill, Switzerland; Eglise Saint-Michel, Mormont, Belgium; Eglise abbatiale, Saint-Michel-en-Thiérache, France; Eglise Saint-Apollinaire, Bolland, Belgium


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