Journey or Journeys?
Our journey begins chronologically with the pieces by Salomone Rossi published in 1607, thus several months after the Mantuan “premiere” of Monteverdi’s Orfeo, in which Rossi is believed to have taken part as a violinist. Echoes of Monteverdi’s music resound very clearly (and movingly) in Rossi’s aphoristic sinfonie.
Passing through the works of Cima, Castello, Merula, Marini and the other composers represented on this recording, we arrive at Uccellini’s collection of 1645, just shortly posterior to L’incoronazione di Poppea and Monteverdi’s death. The works selected for this anthology are thus enclosed within the span of Monteverdi’s operatic output — his lyrical adventure. All the pieces reflect the unflagging endeavor to imitate the vocal models and inventory of gestures of the burgeoning operatic theater. Dario Castello’s two sonatas are emblematic in this sense.
It is also a journey through the colors of the most varied instrumental combinations of the period (actually, it is only a small sampling of possible combinations), the red thread of which is the trio sonata for two instruments and basso continuo. One finds among them the most variegated emotional contrasts as well: from the luminosity of the pieces by Merula and Marini to the ardent theatricality of Castello, and from the vaguely ascetic darkness of Riccio’s sonata to the countless shadings and chiaroscuro effects so beloved in the early Italian Baroque.
Our journey also takes us to the towns of northern Italy which link the composers on our selection: from the Milan of Cima and Rognoni to the Mantua of Rossi and Monteverdi, and from the Romagna of Uccellini and Spadi to the Venice of Riccio and Castello, where all the currents of music and art flowed together: for it is in Venice that Monteverdi spent a good part of his life and where the majority of the works presented here were printed.
The tuning note a’ = 466 Hz, thus a semitone higher than the modern-day pitch, was typical of northern Italy. This peculiarity, along with the use of uncovered gut strings on all the stringed instruments, gives the instruments a special “responsiveness” in the production and intonation of sounds (indispensable for the imitation of singing) and an unmistakable transparency that, in our opinion, is perfectly suited to the interpretation of the music presented here.
Translation: Roger Clement