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Sonate per l'Organo e il Cembalo

Artist
Daniele Proni Organo e Clavicembalo
Composer
Giovanni Battista Martini (1706-1784)
Venue
Cascina Giardino, Crema (CR) Italy

About this album

Giovanni Battista Martini was born on April 24, 1796 and began the study of music in his childhood under the guidance of his father, a bowed instrument player, as well as his older brother Giuseppe. Within the context of the home school of Dom Giuseppe Auregli and of the Church of Our Lady of Galliera, he learned reading, writing, arithmetics and received religious training. He immediately showed a bright intellect and manyfold interests in the field of music, so much to be sent to study with some of the best teachers in Bologna: Angelo Predieri, who taught him singing and composition, and Giovanni Antonio Riccieri, who perfected his knowledge of counterpoint. Francesco Antonio Pistocchi taught him the techniques of singing in depth, while Giacomo Antonio Perti gave him the final precious advice. He was admitted into the family of Saint Francis, a sort of religious apprenticeship, and there he was ordained as Friar Minor in 1725. At the time, he had recently become the assistant of Ferdinando Gridi, choirmaster and organist, who was in poor health: indeed, after just six months, Gridi died and Martini replaced him in his duties, and in a couple of years he became his successor. In 1729, he was consecrated as priest and concluded his own canonic education rapidly: at barely 23 years of age, Giambattista was already what he remained until August 3, 1784, day of his death. It is difficult to describe Martini in a few paragraphs, but we can begin from the compositions that he left us: over 1.000 catalog entries of manuscript and printed musical compositions of several genres, sacred and profane, vocal and instrumental, and 3 volumes of a History of Music, plus 2 more drafts, in addition to an essay on counterpoint and hundreds of annotations on the practice and theory of music. To this, we must add almost 6.000 letters, among those sent and received, which constitute an epistolary with an incredible historical value. This, not counting his legacy of over 17.000 musical volumes and the gallery of paintings: one of the most important collections in the world in this field. When asked to become the assistant of the choirmaster in Saint Peter’s Chapel, he answered with a laconic “Nonetheless, I pass over this matter, and thank the Good Lord that Rome is 300 miles away from Bologna; and here, a more sincere air breaths”, and decided to refuse any proposal that would take him away from his small cell in the convent of Saint Francis, that was his safe haven where he could retire to investigate, study, compose, and transcribe music. He asked the Pope, Cardinal Lambertini of Bologna who was then elected to the pontificate under the name of Benedict XIV, to be exonerated from the obligation to celebrate Mass in church because of his poor health. We will never know how much of a truth was behind this motivation, but he obtained what he wished, that is the freedom to dispose of his time for his research. The Pope, who knew him well, was generous in allowing freedom to a person whom he judged as capable to leave a profound legacy in the history of music: “By the Apostolic authority of the Pontiff Benedict XIV, on this day, September 9 of 1750, it is decreed that 1) the codex, books, parchments, single sheets, both manuscript and printed, collected from everywhere by Friar Giovanni Battista Marini choirmaster at his own expense, 2) after his death, be promptly placed in the Library of this convent, from which they will never be removed, 3) under the punishment of excommunication”. Martini also found time to devote to dozens of students who came to him to receive precious advice on counterpoint, of which art he is an unrivaled master. Among these, young Mozart, who in a letter of 1776 wrote: “…I never cease to be afflicted in seeing myself far from the person that I love, venerate and appraise most in the world, and of which I inviolably claim to be the humblest and most devoted servant of His Very Reverend Paternity”.With regard to his style of composition, he was halfway between Baroque and Gallant styles in instrumental music, while his vocal music is inspired by Palestrina, showing great care in treating the choral masses, dense with counterpoint but at the same time imbued with a sense of melody that the Gallant spirit, in its imminent onset, tends to shape. The keyboard music comprises about one hundred sonatas for organ and harpsichord of which only 18 were printed: 12 Sonate d’Intavolatura per l’organo, e’l cembalo printed in Amsterdam by Le Céne in 1742 (op. 2) and 6 Sonate per l’organo e il cembalo printed in Bologna by Lelio Dalla Volpe in 1747 (op. 3). This, in addition to 6 manuscripts of harpsichord concertos that are now in the process of being published. The Sonatas op. 2 describe the utmost genius of the keyboard compositions by Martini. If this were possible, his artistry is even overflowing when he proposes in pieces where the counterpoint becomes decisively thicker, passages at the limit of the ability to be performed, because the ideas tend to surpass the form. These sonatas are difficult to play and listen. Movements in an almost Gallant style alternate with composite and refined pated that sometimes force the listener to be extremely focused. In contrast, the six sonatas of op.3 shine for the lightness, simplicity and clarity, both formal and of the melody. The project for this recording finds its origin in these sonatas and their genesis. The Sonatas op.3 were six in number, while the new editor Lelio dalla Volpe in the catalog distributed in the course of 1747 spoke about a second collection of Sonatas, that were never composed. The project existed, but evidently something made it so that this was never completed. In my long, in depth work on the manuscripts of the friar, I tried to imagine what other pieces he could have wanted to include in a second collection and I deduced that most likely he would have utilized something that he had already written. His keyboard music was collected in an effective manner and many “detached papers” are collated in the folder denominated HH.35 in the International Museum and Music Library of Bologna. This miscellanea contains very pleasant music, pieces useful for entertainment and daily practice. They are not related to each other, with small exception which led me to compose an epithetical op.4, for which I even imagined a programmatic evolution. The sonatas of op. 2 are all very schematic, that is, all formed by five movements, and at the same time, those of op.3 appear to be more concise, for the motivations explained earlier. They follow a rule: three movements, almost all with ritornello for variations, for the harpsichord sonatas, and two movements with no ritornello for the organ sonatas. The formal scheme that characterizes the new sonatas, instead, aims at collecting all of the ideas by Martini, though with more freedom, and with a reference to the number of five, for the first sonata, and a increase to three movements for the last organ sonata. This is almost a will to consolidate the form that was consolidated in the second half of the 1700s. An alternation between the two instruments remains, but I hope that the greater variety of the form will contribute to delineate a picture if possible more complete of the model of composition of the author.

Additional info about this CD
Recorded: at Cascina Giardino, Crema (CR), July 2nd & 3rd 2018 (Italy)
Booklet 15 pages full colour booklet (Ita and Eng)
Musicology comment
Artist biography

Olimpia Abbandonata & Other Cantatas

Artists
Valeria La Grottasoprano
Ensemble Sonar d'affetto
Nicola Brovelli, violoncello 
Mauro Pinciaroli, arciliuto 
Luigi Accardo, clavicembalo
Composer
Leonardo Vinci (1696-1730)
Venue
Sant'Eligio Vescovo Churc,
La Mandria di Chivasso (To) (Italy)

About this album

«I entered this city, impressed with the highest ideas of the perfect state in which I should find practical music. It was at Naples only that I expected to have my ears gratified with every musical luxury and refinement which Italy could afford. [...] And what lover of music could be in the place which had produced the two Scarlattis, Vinci, Leo, Pergolesi, Porpora, Farinelli, Jommelli, Piccini, Traetta, Sacchini, and innumerable others of the first eminence among composers and performers, both vocal and instrumental, without the most sanguine expectation?». With these words, Charles Burney, the author of one of the most famous and ancient “histories of music” of the modern age, in October 1770 noted in his travel diary his expectations – certainly not unfulfilled – when visiting Naples, a European capital for music. Among the composers mentioned, the name of Leonardo Vinci stands out, whose fame as an opera author, despite the fact that his death occurred four decades before Burney’s stay in Italy, was still known to the English scholar. After having studied his music better, he dedicated to him some flattering words in his General History of Music of 1776, where he wrote that “without degrading his art, rendered it the friend, though not the slave to poetry, by simplifying and polishing melody, and calling the attention of the audience chiefly to the voice-part, by disintangling it from fugue, complication, and laboured contrivance”. Born around 1690 in Strongoli, in the province of Crotone, Vinci moved to Naples at a young age, where he studied with Gaetano Greco at the Conservatorio dei Poveri di Gesù Cristo. Later he was “maestro di cappella” of the court of the Prince of San Severo and in 1725 he took over from Alessandro Scarlatti as “pro-vicemaestro della Real Cappella”, a position he held until his death in 1730. During his career, Vinci devoted himself almost exclusively to the musical theater, at the beginning composing comic operas in Neapolitan language (he made his debut at the Teatro dei Fiorentini in 1719), then “drammi per musica” on librettos by the most famous poets of the time, such as Silvio Stampiglia and Pietro Metastasio, which were mainly performed in Naples, Rome and Venice. Esteemed by contemporaries and by the intellectuals of the following generations (Giuseppe Sigismondo still defines him in 1820 as “one of the most renowned composers of his time”), Vinci is now considered by scholars to be one of the greatest members of a large group of musicians trained in Naples in the post-Scarlatti era, as well as one of the first to have proposed, with a musical composition of greater simplicity in the harmonic structure and a better melodic line, an overcoming of the late-Baroque musical style, which was felt in that epoque increasingly artificial and less appreciated. These stylistic characteristics, typical of Vinci’s mature phase, are evident not only in the operatic repertoire, but also in the chamber cantatas, a vocal genre that followed the same musical and poetic developments of the contemporary melodrama. Vinci’s currently known cantatas production consists of just over a dozen compositions, almost all for solo voice and continuo, a very small number if compared with the composers of the previous generation, primarily Alessandro Scarlatti. Nevertheless, as the seven cantatas proposed here demonstrate, the composer’s stylistic code and the formal structure of the compositions, strictly fixed in the alternation of two recitatives and two arias or closed pieces which are distinct from each other in terms of musical, textual and dramaturgical features, these pieces are emblematic examples of the last season of this kind of vocal music. On the textual level, the cantatas are all dedicated to the typical love themes of the pastoral tradition, with characters drawn from the Arcadian and mythological world (Filli, Nice, Clori, Irene, Cupido) or from chivalric literature (Olimpia, Bireno). The metric structure of the arias reflects that of the contemporary librettos by Pietro Metastasio and consists of two twin stanzas, symmetrical and homomorphic, i. e. consisting of the same number of verses with the same meter. This formal organization of the text leads to the musical structure of the so-called “aria con da capo”, where each of the two stanzas corresponds to a different and contrasting section of the music (A-B), the first of which is repeated at the end of the second, leaving the possibility to the performer of showing off his singing virtuosity through unwritten embellishments. However, compared to the late 17th-century cantatas tradition, Vinci seems to draw once again from the operatic repertoire, writing some arias in which the first section is more articulated (AA’-B-AA’), so much so that it forms what some scholars recall an embryonic structure of the sonata-form. The vein of a musical playwright is also outlined in some recitatives, where Vinci shows a marked adherence to the semantic value of certain words through sudden and unexpected agogic changes (as a tempo), rhythmic patterns that return in the arias (as if to anticipate the “affection” to which the listener will be moved), or real melodic cells that in some ways recall the visual madrigalisms of the 16th-century tradition. What follows, on the dramatic level even more than on the strictly musical one, is that the cantatas proposed here increasingly take on the shape of small opera scenes, which have nothing to envy to the most famous masterpieces for musical theater composed by Vinci. The apex in this sense is constituted by the cantata Dove sei che non ti sento, a typical lament-scene of Olympia abandoned by Bireno built with all the poetic-musical “topoi” of the well-known Lamento di Arianna, set to music in 1608 by Claudio Monteverdi on text by Ottavio Rinuccini: Vinci’s poem, the only one in the present collection to be devoid of an initial narrative recitative, opens directly with Olimpia despairing over Bireno’s abandonment, in a rhetorical climax that finds its dramatic fulfilment in the Presto of the second aria – which can be defined “of fury” – in which, in full respect of Rinuccini’s canon, the protagonist alternates imprecatio towards the beloved (“Horrid whirlwinds / let them arise / the most murky waves / in order to submerge / the traitor ») to his refutatio (“Ah no! Let them return / also the placid waves / ’cause he doesn’t want / so much this soul / who still loves him!”).

Giacomo Sciommeri Study Center on Italian Cantata University of Rome “Tor Vergata”

Additional info about this CD
Recording il 4-6th August 2020, Sant'Eligio Vescovo Church, La Mandria di Chivasso (To) (Italy)
Booklet 22 pages full colour booklet (Ita and Eng)
Musicology comment
Artist biography

Esule dalle sfere - Chi resiste al Dio bendato

Artists
Accademia del Ricercare,
Pietro Busca, conductor
Massimo Altieri,tenor
Gianluigi Ghiringhelli, countertenor
Enrico Bava,
Mauro Borgioni, baritone
Lucia Cortese, Paola Valentina Molinari, sopranos
Composer
Alessandro Stradella (1644-1682)
Venue
Cappella del Seminario di Vercelli (VC), Italy

About this album

Together with Caravaggio, Alessandro Stradella is one of the most fascinating figures of the Italian Baroque era, not just in virtue of an outstanding talent, but also for a tormented life spent in constant fleeting, that contributed to make him very much alike to a protagonist of a modern day novels. Like the famous painter, Stradella died still young at age 38, killed by a knife wound inflicted to him from the hired assassins sent by Giovan Battista Lomellini, a nobleman from Genoa that thus intended to avenge the honor of his sister who – according to his views – the composer had seduced while giving her music lessons. This tragic epilogue brusquely ended a vast musical production that included at the time eight dramas and comedies in music, six sacred Oratorios – that many consider to be among the greatest works of the composer from Nepi – and a large collection of cantatas, both of spiritual and profane character. One of the most emblematic aspects of the style of Stradella is his spirited and vibrant sense of theater that finds full expression in the works conceived for theater representation as well as in works written for performance in private spaces like the cantatas. In the context of sacred music, these often reach intense and brilliant tones that underline with impressive effectiveness the affetti in the text. A work of Stradella maturity, Esule dalle sfere was written in 1680 for the festivity of All Saints Day on a noteworthy text by Pompeo Figari, a priest originally from Rapallo who showed to possess a good literary talent. This quality allowed him to be in among the founders of the Academy of Arcadia in Rome in 1690 and to be admitted to the restricted circles of Pope Clement XI. Written in a purely didactic context, this cantata opens with Lucifer (bass), who expresses all of his rage for having been relegated to the shady atmosphere of Hell and states his will to make the punishment for the souls of Purgatory (chorus) as bitter as possible. After a long and painful path of purification, the souls are destined to reach Heaven. The desperate Purgatory souls ask for mercy, and in the end the Archangel Gabriel (soprano) grants it to them and opens wide the doors of Paradise, that will instead always remain forbidden to Lucifer and his acolytes, who are guilty of daring to place themselves on the same level as God. After a short section in which the importance of the prayers of the living for the eternal salvation of the deceased is explained, the Oratorio ends with jubilant themes underlined by the verse «After a brief sorrow, eternal is the bliss». From the musical standpoint, Esule dalle sfere presents an excellent characterization of the “negative” protagonist, without the bombastic excesses that can be noticed in many works of the last part of the 17th Century. It is supported by brilliant and often virtuosic writing and by an intense dramatic atmosphere that lightens up only in the final chorus with the jubilant souls that are finally saved. Altogether different, the cantata Chi resiste al dio bendato was also composed in the last phase of the creative production of Stadella, and it is centered on the ever-present amorous theme that in this work is declined in happy and luminous tones. In this instance, we do not find ourselves in front of a scene of theatrical nature, but in front of a “love discourse”. This finds its full expression in the final soprano aria «He who lives with love, lives blissfully», preceded by a lively tarantella. From the standpoint of musicology, this cantata is of great importance since in the autograph manuscript the division of the instrumental ensemble between concertino and concerto grosso is clearly indicated, and these were the elements that two decades later were brought to perfection by Arcangelo Corelli in his Opus 6. The scarcity of theatrical aspects of the poetic text translates into a distended, melodious and expressive writing, without excessively virtuosic passages, almost as if Stradella feared that music that was too lively could disturb the serenity of a love fable.

Additional info about this CD
Recorded: on 27th, 28th, 29th February 2020, in Cappella del Seminario di Vercelli (Italy)
18 pages full colour booklet (Ita and Eng)
Artist biography
Musicology comment

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