1.1 The "stile nuovo" is first and foremost a vocal matter: its roots lie in the attempt of Italian composers and academicians to reproduce the musical eloquence of Greek drama and thus to recapture the emotive power of the musical expression of words. Although the decisive milestones in the development of a new, moving style are vocal compositions, instrumental music was directly involved in the musical changes around 1600. Composers like Peri, Caccini, and Monteverdi were trained instrumentalists, whose first official engagements primarily demanded the performance of instrumental music. And even though there is not a single print of purely instrumental music by Monteverdi, his integration of instrumental forces in his operas, madrigals, and sacred music makes it evident that idiomatic and up-to-date instrumental styles were well familiar to him and that they were regarded as equal counterparts of an expressiveness immediately derived from their vocal concertato partners. At the same time, this expressive potential gave way to the development of an independent instrumental style, blending the traditional instrumental idioms of dance music and virtuoso passaggi with the newly developed musical rhetoric. Thus, the development of the early sonata goes hand in hand with the stile nuovo experiments in the early seventeenth century.
1.2 The violinist Ingrid Matthews has recently issued three recordings in which this development can be traced, from the instrumental performance of Caccini songs via Andrea Falconieri's sumptuous 1650 collection to the rich blend of French and Italian instrumental idioms as found in the sonatas by the French composer Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre.
2.1 The recording In stil moderno contains a selection of violin sonatas published mainly in the first half of the seventeenth century. This selection is interspersed with keyboard toccatas by Girolamo Frescobaldi and Giovanni Picchi that are performed by Byron Schenkman on an original harpsichord attributed to the 17th-century instrument maker Giacomo Ridolfi (c.1662–1682). The close relation between the expressivity of the vocal "stile moderno" and the early idiom for solo violin is clearly audible in the sonatas by Dario Castello, Giovanni Battista Fontana, Biagio Marini, and Marco Uccellini. All these compositions are marked by their sectional, at times almost recitative-like organization, by their unpredictable changes from quasi-vocal lyricism to brilliant virtuoso display, and by dance-like rhythms. On the other hand, Matthews' "arrangements" of songs from Caccini's Le nuove musiche (1602) also display to what a high degree early solo song was indebted to the Italian vocal/instrumental traditions of dance song. Thus, Caccini's "Aria sopra la Romanesca: Torna, deh, torna" does not differ in character nor pace from Marini's original instrumental composition over the Romanesca bass. Castello's sonatas (published in 1621 and 1629), though entitled "in stil moderno," still display some features of the older canzona style and have an undeniable modal flavor; on the other hand, their dramatic contrasts and recitative-like passages are clearly inspired by contemporary dramatic music. Marco Uccellini (c.1603–1680) and Isabella Leonarda (1620–c.1700) represent the next two generations, and so does their music. We do not know whose contentment Ucellini alludes to in his Sonata II "La Luciminia Contenta," but the listener will certainly derive great delight from the wild virtuosity in this piece. The long-breathed opening of Isabella Leonarda's Sonata duodecima reveals an exquisite musico-dramatic sense and a clear layout of extended musical units that are almost separate movements.
3.1 Whereas In stil moderno reveals the close interlacing of vocal and instrumental idioms in the early decades of music for solo violin, the second recording is dedicated to a collection of undeniably instrumentally-conceived music for "Violini, e Viole, overo altro Stromento" performed by the ensemble La Luna. In fact, Andrea Falconieri's Primo libro di Canzone, sinfonie of 1650 contains another sort of blend, less that of vocal with instrumental styles than of Spanish and northern Italian musical idioms, enriched with the local tradition of Neapolitan solo song. Born and initially trained in late-16th-century Naples, Falconieri moved to northern Italy shortly after 1600, where he was employed as a musician at the most prestigious courts. After extended travels to Spain and France, he eventually returned to Naples in 1639 to become maestro di capella of the royal chapel from 1647 until his death in 1656. Accordingly, his music spans the entire period of transition from the late sixteenth until well into the seventeenth century; indeed, his 1650 publication contains a wide range of instrumental music that may date back as far as the early 1600s. Dinko Fabris' characterization of this collection as Janus-like refers both to the wide variety of forms and Falconieri's harmonic language,(note 1) representing the past with its old-fashioned contrapuntal canzone and the future with its clearly tonally-oriented harmonic language. Fully up to date are, of course, the ground bass compositions—by 1650, no instrumental collection would fail to include at least one passacaglia, ciaccona, or folias.
3.2 In fact, the "Folias echa para mi Senora Dona Tarolilla de Carallenos" and the "Passacalle" strike this listener as two of the most beautiful interpretations of the recording. Because of their physical approach to their instruments (the violin is not pressed under the chin but held lightly against the upper arm), Ingrid Matthews and Scott Metcalfe have a highly sensitive attack, which blends ideally with the leisurely and yet continuos flow of the music. The "Passacalle" is marked by the warm sonority characteristic of La Luna, and the low-voiced, lyric outpouring of melody over the endless return of the bass pattern creates a beautiful, bitter-sweet atmosphere. The harpsichord music La Luna chose as a complement also observes the seicento craze for the "ciaccona."(note 2) Further, it adds another facet of Southern Italian style: a reflective "Passacaille" di Luigi Rossi and an exuberant, good-humored rendition of Bernardo Storace's "Ciacona."
3.3 Although dances like the ciaccona and the folias can no longer be seen as a characteristically Spanish import by the middle of the seicento, Falconieri's Spanish titles and dedicatees in his 1650 collection reveal his deep immersion in Neapolitan-Spanish culture. By dedicating an entire recording to his Primo libro di Canzone, sinfonie, the ensemble La Luna gives a colorful impression of the wide range of genres and styles available to instrumental composers, and it offers a highly attractive sample of the integration of Italian and Spanish idioms.
4.1 The music of Elisabeth Claude Jacquet de la Guerre takes the listener to an entirely different world, that of refined French music at the court of Louis XIV. Elisabeth Jacquet was born in 1666 or '67 into the French family of instrument makers and musicians, andappraised at the age of ten as capable of musical "miracles" in Mercure galant(note 3) she was taken by Louis XIV to the court, where she served as performer and composer, enjoying the extraordinary privilege of being allowed to dedicate her publications to the Sun King. Although her fame was based on her superb harpsichord playing, Elisabeth Jacquet was also highly praised for her singing, and she combined both her talents in a series of concerts which she organized at her Paris home after the premature death of her husband. The musical activities of this independent woman are reflected in her publications: in addition to her two collections of harpsichord music, there is a considerable amount of instrumental music, including solo and trio sonatas; Jacquet de la Guerre also composed numerous cantatas (sacred and secular), songs "sérieux et à boire," and even an opera.
4.2 Jacquet's Sonates pour le viollon of 1707 display a typically French sonic world: a warm, full sonority, played out at a reflective, long-breathed pace. In contrast to the seicento music of the recordings discussed above, Jacquet's compositions are fully-fledged Baroque sonatas with individual movements of contrasting character. Whereas the magnitude displayed in the broad opening movements and the wide, occasionally daring harmonic range betray Jacquet's French heritage, her exploitation of expressive contrast and the closeness of some passages to dramatic recitative show her integration of an Italianate concern for eloquent musical rhetoric. Nevertheless, the original identity of vocal and instrumental idioms, as seen in the early Italian sonate, has long given way to a characteristically instrumental language: regular phrasing creates a continuous flow, embellished by lush French ornaments. This does not mean, though, that this music is less eloquent; through various rhetoric nuances, Ingrid Matthews, Margriet Tindemans and Byron Schenkman give this style a subtle expressivity, in which every repetition adds something new, in which every alternation between violin and harpsichord turns out as a dialogue between two conversing partners. The rhythmic flexibility, too, appaers as a hallmark both of Jacquet's style and the sensitive interpretation of Matthews and Schenkman; in the hemiola-laden Presto of the the Sonate II in D Major, the constant tugging between triple and duple turns into a delightful physical experience for the listener.
4.3 In another way, Jacquet's music for solo harpsichord (1687) equally illustrates the blend between French and Italian styles. The broad, rhapsodic gestures of the unmeasured Prelude in A Minor stands in the French tradition of Louis Couperin and others, whereas the abrupt changes of pace in the "Tocade" may well be a reflection of the Italian keyboard practice as adopted by Froberger.
5.1 The interpretations of Ingrid Matthews are characterized by the warm, full sonority of her violin playing and an obvious predilection for lyric, almost vocal outpouring of expressive melody, as well as an excellent regard for fine nuances in the instrumental rhetoric. The interplay between Matthews, Metcalfe, Walhout, and Schenkman on the Falconieri recording, ranging from voluble dialogue to crafty concertato competition, gives a fine example of how seventeenth-century instrumentalists might have enjoyed displaying their art to their audience. Their expressive range from reflective recitative to energetic outbursts of virtuoso passage work is entirely appropriate to the Italian delight in instrumental bravado. Although modern sound techniques like—in some instances—very resonant acoustics have helped to enhance the fullness of the duo or ensemble sonority, this has been done con giudizio and does not impair the overall impression of a well-considered interpretation in line with what the seventeenth-century approach to this music may have been.
5.2 The program notes for all three recordings are concise and informative. Although In stil moderno does not go beyond the typical listing of the individual items, it provides the listener with a guideline adequate to trace the development of music for solo violin in seicento Italy. Ingrid Matthews' biographical sketch of Elisabeth Claude Jacquet de la Guerre recreates the atmosphere of musical life in Paris around 1700, adding the essential characteristics of Jacquet's style in her violin music. In both booklets, however, bibliographical references would have been desirable, as Scott Metcalfe provided in his program notes on Falconieri's Primo libro di Canzone, sinfonie, where books for further reading on the composer and Neapolitan performance practice have been recommended.
5.3 In short, all three recordings are to be recommended as interpretations of seventeenth-century violin music that are not only historically informed, but also a delight to the ear.
*Linda Maria Koldau (email@example.com) is writing her Ph.D. dissertation at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität (Bonn) on the sacred music of Claudio Monteverdi and is involved in the research on and editions of seventeenth-century Italian sacred music. Return to beginning
1. Dinko Fabris, Andrea Falconieri Napoletano: un liutista-compositore del Seicento (Rome: Torre d'Orfeo, 1987), as quoted in the program notes of this recording. Return to text
2. The best known testimony to this mania is by Salvator Rosa, with the three lines he dedicates to the ciaccona in his satire La musica: "E si sente per tutto à più potere, / Ond'è, che ognun si scandalizza, e tedia, / Cantar sù la Ciaccona il Miserere." (Satire di Salvator Rosa [Amsterdam: Presso Severo Prothomastix, 1664], Satira I, "La Musica," p. 11). Return to text
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