Notes and Editorial Reviews
Opera omnia a stampa per tastiera
, Sergio Vartolo
, Roberto Loreggian
(hpd, org); Alberto Turco, dir Nova Schola Gregoriana;
Cappella Musicale di San Petronio
TACTUS 580600 (12 CDs: 778:43)
Primo libro delle fantasie.
Recercari et canzoni fancese.
Primo libro di toccate.
Primo libro di capricci.
Secondo libro di toccate.
Canzoni alla francese
"Now we come to the mega-release of the decade, at least for fans of Frescobaldi. The title translates as “The Complete Published Works for Keyboard,” less elegant-sounding perhaps than the original Italian. All of the CDs in this set are reissues, but a quick check of both the online
Archive and my own archive of past issues, dating to the early 90s, failed to produce a single prior review. (The items from the 80s are long gone from the radar screen). There are two possible explanations for this: Either none of these titles was submitted by Tactus for review (unlikely), or they somehow slipped through the cracks and were never assigned. Here is a rundown of the individual CDs, together with the original release date:
CD 1 (2005):
Il primo libro delle fantasie
(Tasini). Organ: Giovanni Cipri (1556) in the basilica of San Martino Maggiore, Bologna.
CD 2 (2009):
Recercari et canzoni fancese
(Tasini). Organ: Baldassarre Malamini (1580) in the parochial church of San Procolo, Bologna.
CDs 3–5 (1987):
Il primo libro di toccate
(Vartolo). Harpsichord: Barthélémy Formentelli (1939) after an anonymous 17th-century Venetian instrument. Organ: Baldassarre Malamini (1586) in the basilica of San Petronio, Bologna.
CD 6 (1999):
Il primo libro di capricci
(Tasini). Organ: Giovanni Battista Facchetti (1526) in the church of San Michele in Bosco, Bologna.
CD 7–9 (1987):
Il secondo libro di toccate
(Vartolo). Organs: Baldassarre Malamini (1586) and Lorenzo da Prato (1471–75), both in San Petronio, Bologna. Harpsichord: Barthélémy Formentelli (1939).
CD 10–11 (1990):
(Vartolo, et al.). Organs: Baldassarre Malamini (1586) and Lorenzo da Prato (1471-75), both in San Petronio, Bologna; Giovanni Andrea Fedrigotti (1657) in the parochial church of Santa Francesca Romana, Ferrara.
CD 12 (1998):
Canzoni alla francese
(Loreggian). Harpsichord and spinet: Riccardo Pergolis after Elpidio Gregori (1736) and Onofrio Garracino (1663).
There is such a wealth of material here that it is not possible to go into detail about the individual pieces. From the groundbreaking First Book of Toccatas—the novelty of which must have stunned the composer’s ecclesiastical employers in Rome—to the posthumously published collection of canzonas in the guise of popular French songs, the music is remarkable for its combination of rich inventiveness, complex counterpoint, and unfettered flights of fancy. Much of it seems improvisatory, but is in fact very strictly notated and firmly grounded in a highly developed motivic structure. There is a living, breathing quality to Frescobaldi’s keyboard music that, when treated with stylistic respect, makes it seem as if the composer were actually present in the room. An eerie feeling, I’ll grant you, but it happened more than once while listening to these CDs.
Francesco Tasini, Sergio Vartolo, and Roberto Loreggian are all acknowledged masters and experts in the style of Frescobaldi and have numerous recordings to their credit. Of the three, I am most drawn to the work of Loreggian, whose harpsichord playing was the standout in Volume 5 of the ongoing Frescobaldi series on Brilliant Classics, reviewed in
34:2. Here he is given relatively little to do, but the playing is always assured and full of personality. Tasini and Vartolo, who have the lion’s share of the work, are scarcely less impressive.
A word is in order concerning the
(Venice, 1635), written following Frescobaldi’s long sabbatical in Tuscany and his subsequent reinstatement at the Vatican in 1628. Generally considered to be the outstanding work of the composer’s mature period, it consists of two groupings of organ music (“Messa della domenica” and “Messa della Madonna”) to be used before and during the Mass. The music is divided between responsorials for the opening Kyrie eleison and Christe eleison—here sung by the two choral ensembles—and freely composed music (canzonas, toccatas, and ricercars). Of particular interest are the two toccatas
per le levatione
, which were intended to be played during the elevation of the Host. The central mystery of the Mass inspired Frescobaldi to write some of his most ethereal and deeply felt music, here beautifully played by Vartolo.
The set provides an unexpected bonus: a mini-tour of historic organs in the Bologna/Ferrara region. The large cathedral organs of San Petronio naturally get extensive coverage, but I find the two smaller, parochial organs of Malamini and Fedrigotti (Bologna and Ferrara, respectively) to be of greater musical interest. The Malamini organ in particular has a wonderful tanginess to its sound that sets it apart from the voluminous but blander large organs of San Petronio. The booklet includes a photo and a detailed essay on the history of each organ, but you have to flip to the Italian-language section of the notes for the stop lists.
Another interesting aspect is the choice of harpsichord. Built in 1939, the Formentelli copy predates the postwar revival of the historical harpsichord, spearheaded by Hubbard, Dowd, Skowroneck, and the rest, by a good 10 years. It provides a reasonably good facsimile of the typical Italian sound—a bit on the dry side, but certainly appropriate for the music. I searched the booklet in vain for a scrap of information, even a photo of the instrument, but there was none. It would have been instructive to discover more about the original, or how this copy came to be built.
Given the wide range of recording dates and venues, the recorded sound is remarkably consistent. The recording engineers have gone to great lengths to present the organs in a natural, believable acoustic. Although the instruments lack the thundering pedals and blaring reeds of modern-day church organs, these are some of the best-preserved, best-sounding historical Italian organs on CD. The liner notes, in English and Italian, are exhaustive in their treatment of the music and the history behind it. For the Frescobaldi completist or scholar of the period, then, this set is self-recommending—a landmark recording that should satisfy the most discerning listener."
FANFARE: Christopher Brodersen
Works on This Recording
Fiori musicali di diverse compositioni by Girolamo Frescobaldi
Sergio Vartolo (Keyboard),
Francesco Tasini (Keyboard),
Roberto Loreggian (Keyboard)
Written: by 1635; Italy
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