ARTA Records - 2HP Production - ARTA Music cz en

Intavolatura di Tiorba
Jan Krejča

 


F1 0142  [8595017414220]
TT- 56:13, released 10/2006

Baroque music for theorbo, the greatest instrument from lute family. Jan Krejca, the most sought after lute player in the country of the moment has chosen almost unknown pieces from the Italian lute music repertoire:

    Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger
    1 Preludio   0:49

    Bellerofonte Castaldi
    2 Perfidiosa corrente   2:38
    3 Sonata 4.   1:19
    4 Sonata 10.   2:09
    5 Arpesca gagliarda   1:43
    6 Cecchina corrente   1:16

    Alessandro Piccinini
    7 Toccata VII.   1:49 Real Audio
    8 Monica (variation on the theme Aria francese detta l´Allemana)   3:02

    Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger
    9 Gagliarda  1:20 Real Audio

    Alessandro Piccinini
    10 Corrente VII., partita   2:17

    Alessandro Piccinini / Girolamo Frescobaldi
    11 Partite variate sopra la folia aria Romanesca / Partite sopra Folia   5:07

    Girolamo Frescobaldi
    12 Monica   4:43

    Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger
    13 Toccata VIII.   1:45

    Bellerofonte Castaldi
    14 Lusingheuole passegio   4:08
    15 Sonata 1.   1:40
    16 Un bocconcino di fantasia   2:26
    17 Cromatica corrente   1:47
    18 Sonata 7.   2:29
    19 Mustazzin corrente   1:30
    20 Grilla gagliarda   2:38
    21 Sonata 9.   2:13
    22 Saltarello allegro   1:34

    Alessandro Piccinini
    23 Partite variate sopra quest´ Aria francese detta l´Allemana   5:38 Real Audio

Jan Krejča - theorbo
Robert Hugo - organ positive, harpsichord
Helena Zemanová - violin
Jan Novotný - double-bass

   

My Most Illustrious Lady and Esteemed Protectress,
Desire renders me impatient and impatience renders me ardent in my endeavours to grant Your Serenity’s wish with all speed, and indeed as quickly as the pace of the courier’s horse will allow. With time even the most melodious voice of Fame grows faint, and if I have any power to prevent it from fading into utter silence, I am more than ready to essay the task, and Your wish is therefore the sweetest of commands.
It is therefore my great honour to dispatch to You a little collection of pieces by what were once the three most celebrated theorbo players in Italy, painstakingly copied down by my friend Gianni Sarti. And I say once the most celebrated, for that their fame is now in peril of oblivion, and none but enlightened souls, like Your Serenity’s, are still gifted with the sensitivity to recognise their distinction and to savour the fruits of their art in all its perfection.
You also expressed a desire to hear at least a few small stories of their travels through the theatre of the world. If You permit, I shall endeavour to relate what I have gathered from persons worthy of trust, being direct or indirect witnesses of the appearances and roles of these modern Amphions. Verily, the comparison is not lame, for these masters were true virtuosi and their art possessed a peculiar power. They may even be called alfieri – the standard-bearers of a new style and a new manner. Fate decreed that while they were as different, the one from the other, as night from day, their steps yet took the same direction and their paths not infrequently crossed.
Seeing first the light of the world in the Year of Our Lord 1566, Alessandro Piccinini was old enough to have been maestro to the other two ‑ Bellerofonte Castaldi and Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger. He differed from them not only in age and adherence to an older style, however, but also in the musical nature of his origins. His grandsire had won fame for his skill on the lute, and his father Leonardo Maria initiated him into the most refined niceties of play, while the family tradition was also eventually to find continuation in Alessandro’s son. Together with his brothers he worked in the service of the Duke of Ferrara Alfonso d’Este, who was most partial to the art of the famous lute trio, Fratelli Piccinini. Every kind of art thrived at the court of the duke, and music cultivated with special favour. Alessandro’s gifts could therefore flourish with inspiration and encouragement from such masters as Luzzaschi, de Wert, Gesualdo or Marenzio.
Alessandro’s journey through life then took him to Rome, in the service of Cardinal Pieto Aldobrandini. To describe the artistic life of Rome to Your Serenity would be to send owls to Athens, but it may have remained unknown, even to Your Gracious self, that it was the art of Alessandro that the celebrated Giambattista Marino, who was sojourning in Rome at that very time, celebrated in the seventh canto of his Adonis with a musical duel between a nightingale and a lute player. Truly, only through art may art be portrayed.
Alessandro did not find the embrace of the Eternal City sufficiently delightful, however, and gladly took a convenient opportunity to return to his patria, to Bologna. Not even the prospect of advancement in service of Enzo Bentivoglio, in the company of the great Frescobaldi, could deter him from this course. And should you suppose that he acted as he did for reasons of a purely personal nature, and not merely because the world of the great city was not to his liking, you would perhaps be not far off the truth.
In Bologna he was a happier man, and devoted himself more than in earlier years to passing on the abundant fruits of his experience. As a teacher he enjoyed such popularity that many players even upon instruments not his own would come to his for instruction. Eventually he set himself to prepare his book of tablatures, Intavolatura di liuto, e di chitarrone, for the printer’s press, adding thereto a treatise on play on the lute and theorbo more elaborate than any of his time. Unlike many others, however, he was in no haste to deliver his works to the printer’s shop. You may doubtless imagine how onerous it was for him to choose the most fitting from the wealth of compositions accumulated over so many prolific years. When the book was at last printed in the Year of Our Lord 1623 it was testament to Alessandro’s passion for innovation and the refinement of his counterpoint. Sovereign master of every aspect of the lute and theorbo, in his toccatas he touched the very limits of the style and powers of expression of his instruments, and added new elements to both. Older melodic motifs he clothed in new array, by repetition of the bass theme, and in innumerable variations on these arias he discovered ways of treating them that were ever fresh and new.
It will certainly surprise you that although he received much greater recompense for his art than most of his fellow musicians, he was distinguished for his great modesty. It was only when it came to his ears that some of his achievements were being credited to others (for example attributing to Kapsperger the invention of the tratta ‑ the lengthening of the bass strings that turned the lute into the archlute and the chitarrone into the theorbo) that he finally felt moved to publish his first book and so to set out the truth for all to see.
I have no wish to burden You with inordinate details, but it cannot be passed over that when, describing selected points of technique, Alessandro makes objection to certain practices that were individual specialities of Kapsperger, he does so with great restraint, defining them as practises “of many” without their originator being mentioned by name. After all, no mere musician, howsoever an acknowledged virtuoso, could publicly rebuke a person of noble birth.
The Nobile Alemano, as Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger was nicknamed by his contemporaries, was the son of an Austrian nobleman residing in Venice, and his unusual natural musical talent was magnified by the greatness of his creative spirit. No one who heard him play could remain unmoved. When at the tender age of twenty-three he had his first book of tablatures for chitarrone printed in Venice, it caused no small stir among the learned and the dilettanti. This work reveals that he was already a pure mannerist, free in his flouting of the bounds of convention and thus enriching the language of music with novel turns, combinations and figures, and doing so entirely in the spirit Marino’s adage “ … to amaze is the aim of the poet, and I speak of a master not a bungler, for let him that astounds no one go shovel horse dung…”. In this spirit he abandoned the much prized sprezzatura – the art of appearing natural –  in favour of shocking degree of artifice and affectation. The end sanctifies the means, and Kapsperger’s means were such that his detractors, to this day far from few, have been as passionate as his defenders. It is apposite to remember here that the limitations imposed by the taste of a patron, and often prescribing excessive fidelity to the rules of the stile antico, did not apply to those of noble birth. In this respect, nobles who voluntary take service with the muses enjoy a freedom that endows their work with an audacity sometimes liable to take them too far beyond the borders of the accustomed and generally acceptable. For examples we need look no further than the compositions of Prince Gesualdo of Venosa, nobleman Freiherr Claudio Saracini or Sigismondo d'India. Yet how fortunate we are that this should be the case....
Kapsperger’s first book was no fleeting flash of talent, ambition and promise on the part of a noble young German. Crescit edendo fames – appetite increased with eating, and his subsequent publications, which friar Allacci has counted at thirty, are proof of his tenacious industry. Among his prints and manuscripts one would find almost everything; five-part and solo madrigals, arias, villanelles, masses, motets, cantiones, sinfonias and ballos, dialogues, operas, oratorios and in particular six books of pieces for theorbo and four books for lute.
I crave Your pardon if I do not take respectful account of Kapsperger’s high birth, but I cannot conceal from You that more than one of his musical bizzaria and stravaganza were the butt of vilification and mirth on the part of his opponents. For example, when as a thirty-year-old he was invited by the Cardinal Bevilacqua to his court to give the cardinal’s guests pleasure with his art, he apparently earned so many compliments that he returned home entirely sated with them, which was fortunate since otherwise he would have departed with an empty stomach, having rejected an invitation to the table on the grounds that he dined only with noblemen or members of the academy. And indeed, if You will forgive the observation, one cannot but see a certain conceit in the way in which the better part of his publications are dedicated to himself, not to mention in his slanders and insults directed to more conformist and non-noble authors. After sixteen years, however, this youthful haughtiness would seem to have waned, for when the Sixtine choir sang one of Kapsperger’s masses at the wish of Pope Urban VIII, at the end the composer stepped up to the choir and personally thanked the singers.
Yet insofar as these reports are mildly inglorious, they are in no way meant to diminish his achievements, which are as indisputable as they are remarkable. As you see, long after Kapsperger’s death in the Year of Our Lord 1651, he is still spoken of, and here and there his compositions are played.
Although Piccinini and Kapsperger were quite opposite in nature, both nonetheless contributed in great measure to the improvement of their instrument. To the bass strings lengthened by Piccinini, Kapsperger added other notes that had still been lacking, and he enriched the gallantries of play still more with different varieties of arpeggio and different kinds of touch, ornaments, legatos and suchlike. Hence an instrument originally born merely to accompany singers grew to maturity in their hands, and then, rightly compared to Orpheus or Apollo, they brought it up into the sunlight of Parnassus.
The creation of a smaller kind of theorbo – the theorbino, was, however, the work of the last of our trio of masters. Bellerofonte Castaldi, free-thinker and adventurer, was born in the Year of Our Lord 1580, the son of the wealthy merchant Francesco Castaldi. Francesco found it so tiresome that consignments of goods addressed to himself were often delivered to a namesake, and vice versa, that he resolved to protect his children from the like annoyance by giving them names like Sesostre, Arpalice, Axiatea... and Bellerofonte. The eccentricity of the last name proved more than suitable for its bearer, who grew up to be the antithesis of dull conformity or mediocrity.
His life was so full of colourful and dramatic incident, that in many respects it cannot but remind you of the careers of Torquato Tasso or Benvenuto Cellini.
He lived in accordance with the saying L'allegria è d'ogni male / Il rimedio universale – For every ill in life is joy  / the universal remedy  – and it was above all the muses Euterpe and Erato who granted him his joy; for Bellerofonte, play on the theorbo and music altogether was an elixir, and the writing of what were often satirical verses a recreation.
He was a master not only of the instrument most dear to him, the theorbo, but also, like the two preceding masters, of the lute and guitar. It is certainly no coincidence that he also played the bandora, an instrument invented by Piccinini. Nessuno nasce maestro – nobody is born a maestro, but not even those who knew the man knew who it was that had taught Bellerofonte all his skills. He himself never boasted of any teacher, and in this he was like Kapsperger, unlike the German aristocrat, however, he was content to call that to which he devoted himself in the pure ardour of his heart “music-making”. Castaldi’s poems are mischievously entertaining rather than serious and with some friends he even corresponded only in verses, sometimes notably indignant, for his nature was choleric and gave him many opportunities for anger.
In consequence of his fondness for speaking his mind, he was shot in the knee in a brawl and for most of his life he limped. After revenge for the violent death of his brother Oromedonte he had to leave his native Dukedom of Modena. In Naples he antagonised supporters of the Spanish overlordship and in Sicily too he became involved in disputes with the authorities. In short – after a time he always had to pack his bags and go somewhere where he had not yet offended anyone.
Not all his troubles in life were the consequence of his quick temper, however, for on his frequent and often far from freely chosen travels he often faced mortal dangers. At sea he nearly died of sea sickness and then almost found a watery grave during a storm. And as if that were not enough, he came close to death at the hands of bandits.
His friends therefore urged him to practice moderation and find a safe harbour, which he eventually did in the Venice so intimately known to Yourself. In this most free of cities he found a refuge and a liberty granting him apparent tranquillity in which to pursue his art and occasional conversation over a glass of Marzemimo wine with Monteverdi, of whom he was a great admirer and friend.
Castaldi’s compositions are distinguished for their remarkable diversity, in the light of which the ingenuity of the composer seems inexhaustible. You would find a small barb at Kapsperger in the book Capriccia a due stromenti, engraved and adorned by his own hand and printed in Modena in the Year of Our Lord 1622. Today, however, You will hear pieces for theorbino and theorbo only if you are extremely fortunate, and indeed you are more like to meet with a white crow than with someone with a theorbino (but Castaldi is said to have used two). The piece entitled Arpeggiata a mio modo - Arpeggiata in my own way, shows that there is a form of arpeggio play that differs from that of Kapsperger. Castaldi also responds to the various treatises on lute or theorbo play in his own way: he gives no avvertimenta on how to play this or the other piece, for they would help no one who is incapable of playing the pieces, and anyone capable of doing so has no need of them.
In the Year of Our Lord 1649 he lost his wager that he would live to ninety, but I would wager ten ells of Lyons strings that even in the next world he has not given up his caustic speech and that he is still singing Gastoldi’s song A lieta vita, which always added to his appetite for life.
With this I most humbly commend myself to Your Grace, for it seems as if this time the courier has had some inking of whither his steps will be bound and is more punctual than usual. I only hope that he will not lose his way, for if so he would be depriving You of the inexpressible delight that I cordially wish You in the undisturbed enjoyment of peerless art.

Your most devoted servant

Miles Studiosus, Accademico Incordato
(Miloslav Študent)

© 2HP Production, October 2017
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