Notes and Editorial Reviews
Primo libro delle fantasie à Quattro. Ricercari e canzoni francese. Fiori musicali
Jean-Marc Aymes (hpd, org, dir); Mara Galassi (hp); Gianluca Ferrarini (ten); Concerto Soave (period instruments)
LIGIA 0101221-10 (3 CDs: 208:00)
This is the fifth and final volume in the Ligia series of the complete keyboard music of Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583–1643). Previous volumes reviewed in
style="font-style:italic">Primo libro di capricci
Secondo libro di toccate
(both 34:2), and the
Primo libro di toccate
(34:6). The present volume includes published collections from the beginning, middle, and end of Frescobaldi’s career. The
Primo libro delle fantasie
was published while the composer was still in Milan; it served as a kind of audition piece that eventually won him the position of organist at St. Peter’s in Rome. The
Ricercari e canzoni
were written at the same time as the
Primo libro di toccate
—at the end of Frescobaldi’s first sojourn in Rome, when his compositional powers were at their zenith. The
, a collection of liturgical organ music, is a product of Frescobaldi’s mature period, after he had returned to Rome from his lengthy sabbatical in Florence. The
can be said to have had the greatest impact on later generations: Both Johann Fux and J. S. Bach possessed copies and studied the
assiduously for their contrapuntal secrets.
The free-form, improvisational component of Frescobaldi’s music—roughly speaking, the prevalent style in the toccatas and capriccios—is perhaps most familiar, but the contrapuntal element is surprisingly strong as well, as witnessed in the three collections recorded here. Remarkably, all three were published in
, or full score (rather than in keyboard tablature), thus preserving the independence of the part-writing. The excellent essay in the booklet,
Counterpoint and Rhetoric
, clarified for me how important this aspect of Frescobaldi’s music really is, and how strong its influence was on later composers as diverse as Sweelinck, the French
and Sebastian Bach. At a time when monody and Italian opera were all the rage, Frescobaldi singlehandedly preserved the
inherited from his teacher Luzzaschi, refined it, and passed it on to later generations.
In contrast to the toccatas, where Frescobaldi was very specific in the keyboard instruments to be used, the three collections recorded here are less specific in their instrumentarium, allowing the performers a certain flexibility of choice. Jean-Marc Aymes has accordingly allotted some of the fantasias and ricercars to a mixed ensemble of violin, viola, and two gambas—quite effective. Another surprise is the use of harp; its delicate, refined voice is a refreshing change of timbre, and causes me to wonder why harp isn’t used more often in this repertoire. Aymes plays the remainder of the pieces either on the historical organ in the church of St. Maria del Carmine in Brescia, or on an unidentified single-manual Italian harpsichord.
34:6, I reviewed the history-making 12-CD set of the complete keyboard music of Frescobaldi on the Tactus label. That set consists largely of reissues, some dating to the mid ’80s. I would have to say that the scales are now tipped ever so slightly in favor of Aymes’s version, for the refined playing, varied instrumentation, and sparkling recorded sound. In the Tactus version of the
, Sergio Vartolo engages a choir to sing the Ordinary of the Mass; Aymes has a tenor intone the opening Kyrie and Christe only—not that it’s going to sway my decision. Highly recommended.
FANFARE: Christopher Brodersen
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