Picchi, Bertoldo, Guami, G Gabrieli, Merulo, Padovano, BellÕhaver & Pesenti

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bell’haver & Pesenti,Bertoldo,G Gabrieli,Guami,Merulo,Padovano,Picchi
LABELS: Glossa
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Giovanni Picchi
WORKS: Works
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.

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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.

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The bright harpsichord sound, characteristic of shallow-bellied Italian instruments, is softened by quite spacious recording, and tuning to a mellow temperament. George Pratt