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Effetti e stravaganze - presentazione PDF Print E-mail

by Sandro Boccardi

Intradas, Galliard songs, caprices… a festive gait of cornetts and trombones as required to celebrate a solemn religious or civil cerimony, in honour of saints or of Venetian doges (referring to the great Vespro della Beata Vergine by Monteverdi in which the initial Toccata, inspired by the Orfeo is precisely an Intrada).
Cornetts and trombones are remote parents of ducal pipes and shawms, that in 1400 were used to announce the arrival of ambassadors. Beginning from the late XVIth century their importance grows and their role changes; they literally climb on churches’ choirs and on palaces' balconies to celebrate each important event as required. This qualitative change has been consented by the perfectioning of wind instrument construction technique and has permitted their use during concerti palatini of Bolognese tradition (this gave our ensemble its name). Foreigners and citizens were surprised by music performances at certain hours of the day, “played at the handrail” of a Communal palace, or in a loggia in front of the city’s main square. An iconographic testimony of this practice is the use of mechanic carillons positioned on the top of Italian towers and churches (the Tower of Mori in Venice) and mostly in Germany.
Performance qualities, they used to say. Teofilo Folengo in his poem Orlandino (1526) describes the qualities of a cornett player called Zuan Maria, «he who has (as is said) eaten / the tongues and harmonies of all birds»; he lets us suppose no one could play better than him.
Better than Bruce Dickey’s Concerto Palatino? I do not think so, because the long lasting instrumental practice of its components has conquered refinements and peculiarities which were unimaginable just a few decades ago. Today, the programme presented by this group is divided in two parts: Italian composers and foreign composers. Music written expressly for an ensemble of “palatine” instruments or easily fitted for this group, thanks to Baroque and Renaissance liberty of letting scores being played by «any sort of instrument». A brief description of each composer.
Alessandro Orologio (Aurava, Pordenone around 1555 – Vienna 1633), his name comes from his father, called to repair the city’s clocks. Cornett player, then vice-capelmeister in Prague, he published three books of Canzonette (the first one dated 1593) and Intrade a Cinque Voci (1597).
Ottavio Bargnani (around 1570 – around 1640), is cited among the musicians of Lombard-Venetian school (no further reliable facts), is the composer of Canzoni a cinque: the song called sopra la Monica refers to a folk tune – the lament of a woman forced to become a nun) extremely popular at his time (also Girolamo Frescobaldi used it with great skill).
The use of trombones and cornetts is expressly mentioned in Concerti eccelsiastici (1610) by Giovanni Paolo Cima from Milan (around 1570 – after the year 1622). In his sacred compositions, written for the Holy Mary of the church of San Celso in Milano, he follows the ecclesiastic tradition. The research for instrumental colour in his Sonatas is instead more interesting and innovative.
Ludovico da Viadana (around 1560–1627), Franciscan monk and musician, has been Choirmaster in the Cathedral of Mantua; afterwards he worked in different religious and musical positions in several cities (Rome, Fano, Bologna, Ferrara, Piacenza, Busseto). He is considered the inventor of basso continuo, technique that is the core of Baroque music, as can be imagined by his masterpiece: Cento concerti con il basso continuo (Venice 1602).
Giovanni Valentini (Venice 1582/83–Vienna 1649), composer and organist, pupil of Giovanni Gabrieli, has worked as musician in Poland, Graz and Vienna. He composed sacred music conceived in Venetian polychoral style (implying the disposition of vocal ensembles placed at a certain distance one from the other producing echo effects).
Almost inexistent are the notices about Giuseppe Scarani (XVII–XVIII century) but his composition in tonight’s programme is an example of the instrumental genre that developed at the beginning of 1600 with the transcription of vocal music (intavolatura).
Gioseffo Guami (Lucca 1540-1612), «excellent composer and suave organ player», as described by a document coming from Lucca, was pupil of Willaert and teacher of Adiano Banchieri. He was conditioned by Venetian style and taught it to others (in Lucca, Bologna, Genoa, Monaco), publishing several masterpieces of sacred and instrumental music. 

During the second part of the concert we must recall Italian forms and genres. Typical Italian forms are Capriccio, Paduana (slow dance) and, usually, the elaboration of folk tunes such as the popular Bergamasca (of Frescobaldian memory: from Fiori Musicali).
Johann Schop (northern Germany? – XVII century), violin player and composer, has published various scores thanks to typographers in Amsterdam. His music is lively and rich of fancy.
Johann Sommer (around 1570-1627) in music history is quite a Carneade. His score Susanne un jour seems to follow the footprints of Giovanni Bassano, passing through the French chanson by Orlando di Lasso (ca1532-1594), used by several other musicians.
John Dowland, Irish (1563-1626), is the famous lutist and composer of melancholy songs. We could say he was an ancient songwriter (popular his Lacrimae, Pavan, etc. ), at the court of Dublin and London. In this programme he is represented by a Gagliarda, Reinassance dance of Italian provenience made up of jumping steps followed by a leap.
The English William Brade (1560–1630) and Hollandian Jan P. Sweelinck, famous organist and composer (1562-1621) that according to Mattheson had visited Venice, present both in this programme instrumental scores, that can be played, according to the uses of the time, by any kind of instrument: from organ or harpsichord to strings to winds.
The same criteria can be applied to Christoph Strauss, whose Eripe me Domine à 5 is the instrumental version of the homonymous motet; for Johann Steffens (Lüneburg, Northern Germany 1560-1616) author of Paduana e Gagliarda; and in the end for Samuel Scheidt (1587–1654) from Halle, city which was also Händel's birthplace, is less influenced by Italian style, even though his Canzon Bergamasca à 5 is the proof of how certain folk tunes, certain dances managed to pass, without paying particular fees, national boundaries. The concert ends with him closing a circle.
It is important to remind the listener to pay attention to rhythm and measures. And, if I can say this, to mentally dance with the cornetts and trombones.