COMPOSERS: Bell’haver & Pesenti,Bertoldo,G Gabrieli,Guami,Merulo,Padovano,Picchi
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Giovanni Picchi
PERFORMER: Fabio Bonizzoni (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: GCD 921502
Venetian music of the turn of the 16th century conjures up familiar images – magnificent large-scale ensemble pieces for St Mark’s, a sensuous new monodic style and the birth of opera. This disc reveals another, lesser-known stratum – intimate keyboard music. Little was published at the time – much is highly improvisatory and its interpretation somewhat conjectural.
Rhythmically, the dance music is least problematic and Bonizzoni’s strong articulation makes it positively prance in places. He’s bold, too, in reading the text: Picchi warns of ‘discordant and false notes’ which, played literally, will produce ‘sweet melodies’. Some are not so sweet – a challenging Toccata ends with a crashing series of changing harmonies over a powerful left-hand tonic chord. Particularly charming are the paired dances, the first coupled with its related triple-time Saltarello based on the same melodic outline.
Some pieces here are actually for organ, though the transfer to harpsichord is legitimate enough. Some have travelled further still – an instrumental canzona by Gabrieli, fair game for brass quartets to show off their virtuosity, here played at a stately pace, with capriciously flexing tempo.
The bright harpsichord sound, characteristic of shallow-bellied Italian instruments, is softened by quite spacious recording, and tuning to a mellow temperament. George Pratt