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(It is like a gleaming ray of sunshine...)
Virtuoso Music of the 16th & 17th century for Cornetto - Richard Šeda


F10266   [8595017426629]   released 12/2021
play all Jako paprsek slunečního svitu ... 57:46
Sonata seconda à sopran solo 5:36
Canzona II 3:56
Ave verum corpus 5:51
Sonata prima à 2 4:29
La Giorgina à 1 4:16
Canzon seconda detta La Bernadinia 3:30
Pulchra es amica mea 4:33
Sonata seconda 7:37
Tota pulchra es 4:18
Sonata per l´organo & violino o cornetto 3:38
O quam suavis es Domine spiritus tuus 3:34
Sonata sesta la Vinciolina 6:25

 1. Dario Castello (c.1590–c.1658) Sonata seconda à sopran solo
 2. Liberale Zanchi (c.1570–c.1621) Canzona II 
 3. Giovanni Pierlugi Da Palestrina (c. 1525–1594) Ave verum corpus 
 4. Tarquinio Merula (1595–1665) Sonata prima à 2 
 5. Giovanni Martino Cesare (c.1590–1667) La Giorgina à 1
 6. Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583–1643) Canzon seconda detta La Bernadinia
 7. Giovanni Pierlugi Da Palestrina (c.1525–1594) Pulchra es amica mea
 8. Giovanni Battista Fontana (1589–1630) Sonata seconda
 9. Giovanni Pierlugi Da Palestrina (c.1525–1594) Tota pulchra es 
10. Biagio Marini (1587–1663) Sonata per l´organo & violino o cornetto
11. Antonio Brunelli (1577–1630) O quam suavis es Domine spiritus tuus
12. Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi Meali (1624–c.1687) Sonata sesta la Vinciolina

Richard Šeda  cornetto 
Jakub Michl  viola da gamba
Marek Kubát  theorbo, Baroque guitar 
Jiřina Dvořáková Marešová  chamber organ, regal 
Marek Čermák  chamber organ

« Quant à la proprieté du son qu’il rend, il est semblable à l’ésclat d’un rayon de Soleil qui paroist dans l’ombre ou dans les ténèbres, lors qu’on l’entend parmy les voix dans les Églises, Cathédrales ou dans les Chapelles. »
Marin Mersenne, Harmonie Universelle. Livre Cinquiesme, Proposition XXII, 
Des Instrumens à vent, Paris 1636, s. 274.

“It is like a gleaming ray of sunshine that appears in the shade or in the darkness 
when it is heard among the voices in churches, cathedrals, and chapels.”  
That is how Marin Mersenne describes the sound of the cornetto in his music theory treatise Harmonie Universele, and the title of my profile album is loosely inspired by him. In this recording, I tried to give an idea of the solo repertoire probably played by the greatest cornetto virtuosos from ca. 1580 to ca. 1660. More than half of the compositions consist of instrumental sonatas and canzonas, and I have chosen the vocal compositions with diminutions for the album based on their sacred texts in order to preserve the recording’s ecclesiastical character. Although they were intended primarily for singers, they were also studied by instrumentalists and by cornetto players in particular in order for them to learn the art of imitating the human voice. In the cases of Canzon II and Tota pulchra es, I have created diminutions of my own following the instructions in period textbooks. In most of the compositions, I use the usual curved cornetto (cornetto curvo) and in two cases two different types of mute cornettos (cornetto muto). For the sake of tone colour, we use two types of positive organs, and the basso continuo part is enhanced by theorbo, Baroque guitar, and viola da gamba. The pitch level of “A” on preserved cornettos from the late 16th century and the first half of the 17th varied within the range of ca. 460 – 490 Hz, and although playing on those “high” cornettos is more comfortable in many ways, we are using A440 Hz tuning for reasons of practicality. By doing so, I avoid the complications of transposition for the stringed instruments that are usually tuned at 415 Hz. The first part of the recording was made at the Protestant Church of the Holy Saviour in Prague and the second, longer part at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Slavonice. The whole project is being recorded by the professional filmmaker Tadeáš Bognár and published on my YouTube channel. The main sources for my brief texts on the individual compositions are The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and the forewords to the individual collections of compositions. I would refer those who are interested in details on the history of the cornetto to the extensive publication Die Zinken und der Serpent (Edition Bochinsky, 2011).
According to the title page of one of his compositions, Dario Castello Venetiano was the leader of an ensemble of wind instruments (Capo di Compagnia de Musichi d’Instrumenti da fiato in Venetia) at Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, which mostly included cornettos and trombones. Later he was put in charge of instrumental music (Capo di Compagnia de Instrumenti) at that church, where the Maestro di capella was Claudio Monteverdi. Castello’s sonatas were very demanding literature for the wind instruments of their day. The frequent use of the “stile concitato” (agitated style) in his music with rapidly repeated notes and extended trills to symbolise aggressive excitement or rage is in keeping with his association with Monteverdi. For the enhancement of these affects, I have added a regal (a type of portable organ) to the basso continuo team. The Sonata seconda a sopran solo is one of two solo sonatas from the collection Sonate concertate, libro secondo published in Venice in 1629. The collection has been uniquely preserved at the university library in Breslau, and it is dedicated to King Ferdinand II of Bohemia. A second edition appeared in Venice in 1644.
     The Italian musician Liberale Zanchi began his musical career as Kapellmeister and organist to the Archbishop of Salzburg and court organist to Emperor Rudolf II in Prague from 1596 until the emperor’s death in 1612. By the inclusion of his canzona, I would like to pay tribute to the rich musical history of the era of Emperor Rudolf II. To this day, Canzon II has been preserved uniquely in a manuscript tablature at the Minorite Monastery in Vienna, and it is a paraphrase of the Canzon La Spiritata by Giovanni Gabrieli. I have transposed this canzona by the interval of a fourth higher than the original, and I have added diminutions to the solo and organ parts on the basis of diminutions in canzonas from the late 16th century used as models.
     Giovanni Battista Bovicelli D’Assisi Musico nel Duomo di Milano, as the composer referred to himself, is known primarily thanks to his treatise on cadenzas and diminutions titled Regole, passagi di musica, which was published in Venice in 1594. In it, Bovicelli gives two examples of diminutions of Palestrina’s five-voice secular motet Io son ferito ahi lasso. It was first published with the text Io son ferito, then for a second time with the text of the Eucharistic motet Ave verum corpus, which I used for my recording. Because of the sacred text, I chose a mute cornetto in F and a somewhat calmer style of interpretation.
     Tarquinio Merula spent most of his relatively unsettled musical life as an organist and teacher in Italy, but he served briefly in Warsaw as organist to King Sigismund III of Poland. The Sonata prima is one of two instrumental sonatas for soprano and bass in the collection of motets published in Venice in 1624. The designation Violino over cornetto in the heading of the part was quite common in the first half of the 17th century, and it shows how similarly advanced violin and cornetto technique was at the time. The missing bass part is based more or less on the basso continuo part and has been reconstructed by Bernard Thomas for London pro musica.
     Giovanni Martino Cesare was a master of the cornetto whose career began in Austria with his cornetto-playing brother Giovanni Francesco. In 1615 he began serving as a cornetto player at the court of Maximilian I in Munich. That same year he became a domestic servant of the ruler, and he probably remained there to the end of his life. His vocal-instrumental collection Musicali melodie appeared in print in Monaco in 1621. The instrumental part of the collection contains compositions for between one and six parts, primarily for cornettos and trombones (or for violins and viols) accompanied by organ. The heading of La Giorgina, which is heard on this album, bears the designation Cornetto o violino solo as opposed to the usual Violino o cornetto. The reversal of the word order hints that these compositions were primarily intended for players of the cornetto, especially because the composer himself was a cornetto player. Although the organ part was routinely combined with other basso continuo instruments, in this case I have retained only the part for positive organ.
     The Canzon detta La Bernadinia by Girolamo Frescobaldi is one of five solo canzonas for 
a solo soprano instrument and basso continuo from the collection Il primo libro delle canzoni ad una, due, tre e qutro voci published in Venice by Masotti in 1628. Interestingly, these canzonas appeared in print again in the same year, but this time published by Robletti. In both cases, the solo soprano part of the canzonas is marked Violino over cornetto, and in Masotti’s edition the canzonas are given concrete titles.
     Two different versions of diminutions were written based on a five-voice motet by Palestrina with the text Pulchra es from the Song of Songs: G. Bassano: Motetti, madrigali et canzone francese (1591) and F. Rognoni: Selva di varii passagi (1620). In this case, I have attempted to create diminutions of my own, which are a compilation of multiple diminution methods from ca. 1600.
     Giovanni Battista Fontana fell victim to a “voracious” outbreak of plague that was raging in northern Italy in 1630-31. His only preserved collection titled Sonate a 1.2.3. per il violino, 
o cornetto, fagotto, chitarone, violoncino o simile altro istromento appeared in print after his death in Venice in 1641, and the individual manuscripts of sonatas of this collection were probably compiled successively. In the foreword, Fontana is mentioned as one of the most prominent violin virtuosos of his day. The first six sonatas of the collection are intended for “Violino solo”; only in the case of the Sonata prima does the heading read “Violino Primo overo Cornetto”. This repertoire shows the development of the virtuosity of cornetto playing in the first half of the 17th century. The introductions of some of the solo sonatas are strikingly reminiscent of plainchant melodies. In the case of the Sonata seconda, the melody is the Kyrie from Missa XII “Pater cuncta”. 
     In his day, Giovanni Bassano was a famous cornetto player. In 1601 he because the leader of the instrumental ensemble at Saint Mark’s Basilica, which had been established by his colleague Girolamo dalla Casa. Gabrieli’s Canzon in echo, probably written for Bassano, demonstrates the great promise of application of his virtuosic ornamentation in concertante music. Today, Bassano is mostly remembered as the author of the textbook Ricercate, passagi et cadiente (1585) and for a book of examples of diminution motets titled Motetti, madrigali et canzone francese (1591), from which the diminutions based on Palestrina’s motet Tota pulchra are taken. They are written for soprano and bass, and it is not certain whether they were to be played simultaneously. Bassano’s book of diminutions has been preserved thanks to a copy made by Friedrich Chrysander in 1890! 
     The Sonata per l’Organo & Violino o Cornetto is the last composition in the collection Sonate, symphonie, canzoni, pass’emezzi, baletti, corenti, gagliarde & ritornelli by Biagio Marini published in Venice in 1629. The only extant specimen of the collection is preserved at the University Library in Wroclaw. Like many other books in German and east-European countries, this publication bears scars of the barbarism of the two world wars. Thanks to having been copied by the great musicologist Alfred Einstein in the early 20th century, the whole collection has been reconstructed almost perfectly. A curious feature of this sonata is its designation for “Organo o Cornetto”, which is almost unique in the 17th century.
     According to recent studies, Antonio Brunelli was one of the most important Italian music theorists of his day. In 1614 his textbook with diminutions for pairs of performers was published in Florence. It was primarily intended for singers, but as Brunelli states, also for musical instruments: cornetti, traverse, flauti, viole, violini et simili strumenti. The solo motet O quam suavis est Domine spiritus tuus is part of a collection of motets titled Fioretti spirituali (Spiritual Flowers) published in Venice in 1626. The motet is primarily intended for solo voice (tenore overo canto) accompanied by basso continuo. It contains elements of diminution, and the composition’s character cries out for instrumental performance. The text of this motet is an antiphon for the Magnificat from the Verspers prayer service for the Feast of Corpus Christi. To perform it, I have chosen a mute cornetto in G accompanied by theorbo.
     The Italian violinist Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi Meali was an instrumentalist at the court of Ferdinand Charles, Archduke of Austria in Innsbruck. The Sonata sesta la Vinciolina is from the collection Sonate a Violino solo, per chiesa e camera. All 12 sonatas are composed in the “stylus phantasticus”, which is characterised by rapid, dramatic changes of tempo and metre and by many highly virtuosic passages. The designation “per chiesa e camera” indicates universal usage.

Richard Šeda, Dačice, 1 November 2021 on the Feast of All Saints


Richard Šeda graduated from the České Budějovice Conservatoire, where he studied trumpet in the studio of Jiří Pelikán. As a student, he took an interest in the historically informed interpretation of early music. As a player of the cornetto, he was initially self-taught, and he got his first performing experience on the instrument in the ensemble Ritornello led by M. Pospíšil. In 2005 he began studying cornetto playing at several courses in Prague and in France with the French cornetto player Judith Pacquier. He has appeared with many foreign early music ensembles including Concerto Copenhagen, the Marini Consort Innsbruck, L’Arpa Festante München, the Wiener Hofburgkapelle, and the Clemencic Consort Wien. In the Czech Republic he has collaborated with ensembles including the Czech Ensemble Baroque, Cappella Mariana, Collegium Marianum, Ensemble Inégal, and Collegium 1704. In 2007 he founded his own ensemble named Capella Ornamentata with a focus on music of the 16th and 17th centuries.
     Capella Ornamentata has three CDs to its credit, a number of performances on stage in the Czech Republic and abroad and at early music festivals, and appearances on radio and television broadcasts. Richard Šeda often teaches cornetto at the Summer School of Early Music in Valtice, and he is a cofounder and director of musical programming for the regional Dačice Baroque Arts Festival. He also devotes himself to musicological research and the reconstruction of scores from old printed editions of parts. His contribution to research on the music archive in Kroměříž was even mentioned in Jiří Sehnal’s book “Pavel Josef Vejvanovský and the Kroměříž Music Collection”. Richard Šeda’s birthplace Dačice is also an integral part of his musical life. At the local Elementary School of the Arts he teaches recorder and trumpet, and he gives frequent performances together with his pupils, who often achieve success at nationwide competitions of students at elementary schools of the arts. He is actively involved with musical productions in Kostelní Vydří and at the Convent of Discalced Carmelites in Dačice.

Further recording by Richard Šeda and his Capella ornamentata: 

© Studio Svengali, May 2024
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