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Italian Clavier of the 17th & 18th centuries
Picchi, Frescobaldi, Zipoli, Scarlatti


F10053    [8595017405327]   released 8/1994

play all Italien Clavier – Giedré Lukšaité-Mrázková 58:52
Ballo alla Polacha 3:01
Passe e Mezzo di Mg. Gio. Picchi 4:17
Ballo ditto il Stefanin 2:24
Toccata prima 1627 4:17
Cento partite sopra passacagli 12:02
Suita si minore - Preludio 4:45
Suita si minore - Corrente 2:13
Suita si minore - Aria 3:08
Suita si minore - Gavotta 3:21
Toccata per cembalo d´ottava stesa 19:41

virginal 1990 (1-3), after Stephan Kene 1675
single manual German harpsichord 1992 (4,5), anonym, Eisenach 1715
double manual Flemish harpsichord 1994 (6-10), after Jan Ruckers 1627

Instruments by František Vyhnálek, Hovorčovice
Pitch: A = 415Hz, Temperament: mean-tone (1-5), Vallotti (6-10)

Italian keyboard music of the 17th and 18th centuries

Looking into Italian keyboard music written in the early years of the seventeenth century, and following through into the eighteen, is to pursue adventure. The carnival spirit of Venice is there, but what we are offered is not just light-hearted show; this music has a serious aspect, too.
     The instruments of the Renaissance were still in use at the beginning of the seventeenth century, but the musical idiom was changing, and with it the demands made on individual solo instruments. This can be seen in the music written for keyboard instruments; in the first half of the seventeenth century, in particular, and even into the eightenth, composers rarely indicated which keyboard instrument they had in mind. The full, colourful tones of the organ were suited to official occasions, or church music, while other stringed instruments with the same keyboard offered other choices. The clavichord (It. clavicordium) with its frail and intimate sound offers the most personal musical experience, while the harpsichord (It. clavicembalo, gravicembalo) has its place as a solo instrument, in chamber music and in the theatre - a secular instrument.
     "Rendo lieti in un tempo gli occhi el core" (I delight both the eyes and the heart) is often inscribed on Italian harpsichords and spinets. These slender, elegant instruments, with painted or inlaid designs on their lids, entranced music lovers with their delightful tones. The typical Italian harpsichord of the late seventeenth century has a rather dry tone, clear and polished, with a deeper resonance. For the most part, these instruments had two 8' registers, so that where the acoustics were good, they gave wonderful tone. This was very important in the Baroque period, when the type of instrument and the sound it produced, especially with the harpsichord, became the decisive element of the emerging styles.
     Early Baroque keyboard music continued in the traditional forms of the fugue, the fantasy, and music based on the "cantus firmus", while deriving other forms from vocal music; its true home was music for the dance. The Italian mannerists and early Baroque composers used all these forms: C.Merulo, the two Gabrieli of the Venetian school, their opposite number G.de Macque, A.Mayone and G.M.Trabaci of the Naples school. Girolamo FRESCOBALDI drew on all these sources; he was a typical composer of the transition, an organist and an outstanding teacher. Careful study of his style reveals a wealth of invention and imagination in compositional technique. Fortunately, the introductions to his worhs give us a fairly detailed guide to interpreting them, especially the toccatas. His own corrections of the printed scores are also invaluable.
     The second "Toccate e partite d'intavolatura di cimbalo" (Rome 1615-37, 1627) represents the formal and effective Baroque technique. Imitation, chords, bass figures and parallel tehmems succeed one another dramatically within a few bars. The Baroque rubato is the principal means of expression. "Toccata prima" (1627) is exciting, although without declamatory quavers (Frescobaldi distinguishes between .. and .. ), while allowing the theatrical pause found only once in the two volumes.
     Another work in the first volume "Cento partite sopra passacagli" combines brilliant harmonisation, momentary inspiration and disturbing ideas. Like G.Strozzi and B.Pasqueni, Frescobaldi used variations on the bass passacaglia (passamezzo, romanesco, ruggiero, folia), beginning on the second beat. There are 124 cadences in the bass part of the Partita. The Prima parte is followed by the Corrente, a merry dance followed by the returning passacaglia in strict polyphony, ending in one key. The work was completed in this form by 1615, while the 1637 version offers alternating ciaconna and passacaglia rhythms and keys. It is not clear why Frescobaldi was so careful to distinguish the two forms of variation. During the Baroque period the ciaconna merged with the sarabande and remained a dance rhythm, while the passacaglia was still a flowing, balanced form. The metre and time of each part, sometimes changing, allows for variation in expression. The magnificent chromatic progressions, the harmonic moments and dissonances within the polyphony so fascinate the listener that he would only ask for more ...
     One of the contemporaries of Frescobaldi was Giovanni PICCHI, composer, organist and lute player. It was this late accomplishment that influenced the style and technique of his works for the harpsichord and similar instruments. Those presented here are from his "Intavolatura di balli d'arpicordo" (Venice 1618-9, 1621). These are highly stylized danced arranged in sequences, repeated with ornamental variations. The characteristic feature is a melody for the right hand with accompanying chords in the left. The finest of these variations is the "Passe e Mezzo di Mg.Gio.Picchi".
     Domenico ZIPOLI, organist and composer, a Jesuit, left his native Tuscany for Rome, and then for Cordoba in Argentina. His "Sonata d'intavolatura per Organo e Cimbalo", Op.I., was published in Rome in 1716, followed by four suites and two partitas for the harpsichord. His music was popular because it combined counterpoint with traditional Italian forms and the prevailing taste in melody. The light "Suite in B minor" with its clear melodic line invites modest, elegant and agogic development.
     In the sphere of musical drama, where Italy was supreme, the great name was Alessandro SCARLATTI. The author of over 75 operas, 35 oratorios and some 800 secular cantatas, not to mention his Masses and madrigals, his instrumental works seem few. Yet along with the work of M.Rossi, B.Pasquini and A.della Ciaya they take their place with that of Frescobaldi and of his son, Domenico Scarlatti. There are over forty toccatas in his compositions for the harpsichord, some of which are unoriginal in their introductory phrases and show weakness in developing the theme.
The long "Toccata per cembalo d'ottava stesa" (1723) marks the peak of Scarlatti's harpsichord music. The introductory Preludio-Presto is traditional, while the Adagio-Cantabile appoggiato with its chromatic bass recalls Bach's Chromatic Fantasy, and the virtuoso third movement is followed by a two-line fugue in semiquavers, climbing inexorably, to the Adagio with its full chords. The final Folia of twenty-nine variations in technical and rhythmic variations brings this recording to an end with the magnificent twenty-fourth variation, "tutto arpeggiato".

Ivana Bažantová

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