Il Giardino Armonico
THE COMPOSERS AND THEIR WORKS
GIOVANNI BATTISTA SPADI
Diminuzioni on the “Anchor che co’l partire” by Cipriano de Rore (1609) Little is known about Giovanni Battista Spadi, who came from Faenza, a small community near Bologna. In Venice in 1609, he published a treatise on the art of embellishment in voices and instruments. This piece is from that publication. It goes back to a madrigal by Cipriano de Rore, one of the most important composers of the 16th century. In the original, the madrigal was written for four singing voices. In Spadi’s Diminuzioni on “Anchor che co’l partire”, the flute plays a richly embellished soprano, while the cembalo assumes the three other voices of the original.
Sonata “Sopra la Monica” à 3 (for two violins and basso continuo) (1629)
Biagio Marini, a very distinguished violinist of the middle of the 17th 55 century, wrote this piece as a set of variations on the “Aria de la Monica”, a melody that was extremely popular in the 16th and 17th centuries. The text of the song tells the story of a young girl who is to be made a nun a “monica” – against her will.
Sonata IV and Sonata X à 3 (for two violins, contrabass violone and basso continuo) from the Sonate Concertate, op. 2 (1629). Little is known about Dario Castello, either, except that he led the wind instrument consort at the Cathedral of San Marco in Venice in the first twenty years of the 17th century. At this time, the important composer Claudio Monteverdi also lived in the lagoon city, which was one of the capitals of the musical world at the time. The two sonatas were published there in the collection Sonate Concertate in 1629. Their style was extremely progressive, and they were still being reprinted in 1658. Dario Castello’s sonatas are among the most important proofs of the independent virtuoso style in 17th-century Italy, which avails itself of all of the string instrument’s technical possibilities.
Ciaconna à 3 (for two violins and basso continuo)
Tarquinio Merula’s ciaconna functions with unusually virtuoso variations for the two violins, over the foundation of a rhythmic, melodically gripping melody named “Basso di Ciaconna” and played on the basso continuo. The originally Latin American dance was highly esteemed in 17th-century Italy. Innumerable compositions of such and similar dance music are documented.
Concerto for lute, two violins, and basso continuo in D major, RV 93
Concerto for lautino, two violins and basso continuo in D major, op. 10, Nr. 3,
RV 90 “II Gardellino”
Concerto for recorder, two violins and basso continuo in G minor,
RV 104 “La notte” (“The Night”)
Fantasmi (ghosts, illusions): Presto — Largo — Andante
Il sonno (Sleep): Largo
Antonio Vivaldi was buried in a pauper’s grave in Vienna on July 28, 1741. To keep expenses as low as possible, the bells pealed only perfunctorily at the burial. An official notice read, “The abbé Don Antonio Vivaldi, known as ‘prete rosso’, an outstanding violinist and a composer of the highest degree of fame in the area of the instrumental concert, who is said to have once earned 50,000 Ducats, and was meanwhile pauperised by extraordinary squandering, has died in Vienna.” But one thing is certain: Vivaldi spent much more musical spirit, ability and effort during his life than he did money. The “red priest” composed about five hundred concerti – instrumental works that made the composer who lived in Venice famous throughout Europe during his lifetime. But Vivaldi’s death brought a swift end to his fame: the Venetian and his compositional work were forgotten for a long time.
The rediscovery of the concerti of Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) is one of the most fascinating chapters in music history. A large part of his work was considered lost since the confusion of the Napoleanic wars. However, in 1926, fourteen volumes of previously unknown Vivaldi works, were discovered hidden in a Piedmontese Salesian cloister. This came about through clever detective work, combined with lucky co-incidences. But it appeared that the cloister possessed only a part of what was earlier a much larger stock. Another trail led in October 1930 to Genoa and a descendant of Count Durazzo (1717-1794), one of the former owners of the legacy of the important Baroque composer. And indeed, here the remaining, missing volumes of scores were found. This sensational find, which included several hundred concerti, also marked the beginning of a’ great Vivaldi renaissance that has continued to this day.
But what would be an appropriate musical realisation of these finds? How should Vivaldi’s concerts sound? What tempi, what dynamic interpretation are suitable for them? The inadequacy of the Romantic interpretative tradition of the 19th century to provide satisfactory solutions has become extremely clear since the performances of Old Music with original instruments. In Germany, England and the Benelux countries, great efforts have now long been made to approximate the “historical performance practice”. But not in Italy, where the first Italian ensemble specialised in the interpretation of, Baroque music – Il Giardino Armonico – was not founded until 1985, in Milan. The ensemble’s imaginative name recalls the often illustrious titles of works in the 17th century, such as Armonico Tributo by Georg Muffat (1682), Giardinetto d’amore by Johann Hermann Schein (1623) and the musical Lustgarten (Pleasure Garden) by Hans Leo Haler (1601). The imaginative power of the name is matched by the unconventionality of the ensemble’s playing – especially its interpretations of Vivaldi.