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La tradizione organistica Pugliese-Napoletana dal Rinascimento al Barocco
Margherita Sciddurlo (organ)
Rec. 2018, Chiesa di Sant'Antonio - Santa Maria del Passa, Mola di Bari, Italy
TACTUS TC670004 [52:37]

Even organ lovers may not know several of the composers on the programme of this disc. The names of the likes of Jommelli, Porpora and Paisiello are well-known, but it is rather surprising to see their names appearing in a programme of organ music. All the composers have in common that they are in some way or another connected to Naples and the region surrounding it, as the title of this disc indicates. Naples was the place to be if one wanted to make a career as an organist. Dinko Fabris, in his liner-notes, mentions that in the mid-17th century Naples was a metropolis of four hundred thousand inhabitants and had more than 500 churches and chapels, more than Rome. This means that there were plenty opportunities to find a job as organist. In addition, Naples had four conservatories which offered a thorough musical education.

The birth of the Neapolitan keyboard school is usually connected to the names of Giovanni de Macque, Giovanni Maria Trabaci and Ascanio Maione. These are absent here; instead we get two pieces by the somewhat older Rocco Rodio, whose two ricercati are recorded here for the first time. Like several other composers in the programme, he was from Apulia, a region in the south-east of Italy, at the coast of the Adriatic Sea. He was a member of Carlo Gesualdo's academy in Naples. He was also the author of a theoretical work.

Most of the pieces included here date from the 18th century. Recently I reviewed a disc with music for the bass violin by Rocco Greco (review). Gaetano, whose Intavolatura opens the programme, was his better-known brother, who was born in Naples and was a pupil of one of its conservatories. Around 350 keyboard pieces from his pen are known, which were basically pedagogical material for his students. It seems that most of the keyboard works of Alessandro Scarlatti were also written for this purpose. Like in the case of Greco, that does not diminish their artistic qualities. In recent years Francesco Tasini recorded the complete keyboard works for Tactus. Here we get one fine specimen of his art, which attests to his command of counterpoint, which takes a central place in his oeuvre.

Ignoto Gallipolino, about whom the liner-notes don't give any information (and who is not mentioned in New Grove), is represented with a Pastorale, one of the most popular genres in Italy, in keyboard music as well as in pieces for instrumental ensemble. There are three pieces of this kind in the programme, and they have in common a siciliano rhythm and a drone in the left hand. Leonardo Leo is best-known for his vocal works, both sacred and secular, whereas Fedele Fenaroli played a key role in the dissemination of the Neapolitan style in keyboard music, in particular through his partimenti, "exercises in figured-bass playing, not so much as accompaniments to a solo instrument as self-contained pieces" (New Grove). Another composer of partimenti was Giacomo Insanguine.

Nicola Porpora is known for his vocal works, and in particular his activities as a vocal teacher. Instrumental music takes a very minor place in his oeuvre; the fugue performed here is one of two, and these are his only keyboard works. Paisiello was also an opera composer, who for some time worked at the court of St Petersburg. He wrote some keyboard concertos as well as separate keyboard pieces. It is not surprising that his sonata included here smells of opera. The chaconne by Niccolò Jommelli, who for many years worked in Stuttgart, is not an original keyboard piece, but rather a transcription of an orchestral work.

The pieces on this disc are not performed in chronological order, which is a bit disappointing, as that would allow the listener to follow the stylistic developments in Neapolitan keyboard music. Two things do become clear, though; the reduction of the role of counterpoint and the increasing influences of secular music, opera in particular. Some of the pieces performed here may not have been intended for liturgical use, but even in liturgical organ music, the process of 'secularisation' is unmistakable.

That does not compromise the quality of what Margherita Sciddurlo selected to play. The nice thing about this disc is that it presents music that is little-known, if at all, and may not have often appeared on disc. Sciddurlo is an excellent interpreter, who performs the music with flair and imagination. She has the help of a splendid historical instrument of 1747, tuned in 1/4 comma meantone, which may seem a little old-fashioned in music of the late 18th-century. However, organ building in Italy was fairly conservative, and it seems likely that composers of that time were still entirely acquainted with this kind of temperament.

For organ lovers, this disc offers a perfect opportunity to add something unfamiliar to their collection.

Johan van Veen

Gaetano GRACO (1657-1728)
Intavolatura [4:58]
Ignoto GALLIPOLINO (18th C)
Pastorale [2:44]
Niccolò JOMMELLI (1714-1774)
Chaconne [5:52]
Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725)
Fuga (Giga) in D [1:58)
Leonardo LEO (1694-1744)
Pastorale [4:29]
Giacomo INSANGUINE (1728-1795)
Sonata per organo [2:27]
Rocco RODIO (1530-1607)
Terza Ricercata [5:54]
Nicola Bonifacio LOGROSCINO (1698-1764)
Sonata [in G] [3:17]
Quinta Ricercata [3:16]
Nicola Bonifacio LOGROSCINO
Sonata [in B-flat] [3:36]
Fedele FENAROLI (1730-1818)
Pastorale [5:04]
Giovanni PAISIELLO (1740-1816)
Sonata per organo [3:25]
Niccolò Antonio PORPORA (1686-1768)
Fuga Diatonica, Enarmonica, Cromatica [4:41]

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