If you, like me, enjoy trawling the “road less travelled”, at
least in the musical sense, then you will know the “Eureka moment”.
You spend days, weeks, perhaps even months, listening to the works
of little known composers, hearing nothing but second or third
rank music, justifying the obscurity of their creators. Then,
all that counts for nothing: you hear something quite extraordinary,
and like Archimedes in his bath, you experience the Eureka moment.
disc is one such moment. Look at the names in the track listing:
Arrigoni, Merula, Marini … it might as well be a team sheet
for AC Milan, except I would recognise some of their names!
I believe that Cavalli’s name might have crossed my path, but
definitely none of the others.
CD is subtitled Music for strings in the republic of Venice
1630-1660 and the time is significant. 1630 is the year
that the plague reached Venice. It claimed almost 50,000 victims
in the city alone, including outstanding musicians, such as
the violinist Giovanni Fontana and the celebrated Alessandro
Grandi, who, at the chapel of San Marco, was second only to
Monteverdi. In November 1631, Monteverdi's music was played
and all the surviving citizens gathered at the Basilica San
Marco. The musical renaissance of the city began with the construction
of public, commercial music theatres which turned out to be
a winning idea that quickly made its way not only through the
entire city, but also throughout Europe as a prime export of
don’t think I can usefully describe each piece, so I’ll restrict
my comments on the music in general. There is a great variety
of moods – fast, thrilling, flowing, wistful – throughout the
seventeen pieces so there is no need to be concerned that it
will “all sound the same”, a criticism I have heard levelled
at this type of music from some who clearly haven’t listened
to it properly. With a longest run time of less than eight
minutes, none outstays its welcome. If I was to recommend three
pieces that illustrate the virtues of this CD, they would be
Arrigoni’s Sonata a 5, Merula’s Canzon and Neri’s Sonata a 6.
Suffice to say that if you are interested in this type of music,
don’t hesitate, but those who aren’t sure might find the following
a couple of years ago when I read a MusicWeb International review
of a Naxos recording of German chamber works of the 17th
century (Das Partiturbuch 8.557679 – see reviews),
that particular area of music had not been one to interest me
greatly. Something in the review intrigued enough me to buy the
disc: it too was a Eureka moment. I made the disc one of my Records
of the Year, included it in my Classic Classics, and
began to investigate the genre.
surprisingly, the Italian style differs rather from the German,
but both still appeal greatly. The music here is on a slightly
larger scale than that in the Partiturbuch, where most
of the works were for one or two instruments plus bass continuo.
In this recording, Sonatori de la Gioiosa Marca uses ten players:
three violins, two violas, cello, viol, archlute, organ/cembalo
ensemble (see their website)
was founded in 1983 in Treviso, near Venice and they use authentic
instruments. Fortunately, their style is bold but not harsh, dramatic
but not rushed. They have made a number of recordings of the Italian
Baroque, including Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. I will try to hunt
this down, as I am interested to hear how they compare to my version
of choice for this: Fabio Biondi and Europa Galante on Opus111.
listened to this recording as a near-CD quality stream from the
Naxos Music Library, and it is available for download and preview
from Classics Online (see the sales link above). The sound from
the good quality audio system on my computer was vibrant and detailed,
so I presume listening on a conventional system to the CD would
have been even better.
David J Barker