Una serata venexiana
Capella de la Torre
Katharina Bäuml, shawm and direction
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, 2017
It is a rich programme the one that Katharina Bäuml and her ensemble Capella de la Torre has chosen for their recording Una serata venexiana (“an evening in Venice”), an exquisite album collecting music that has been composed in Venice or that has a close connection with the city on the lagoon because it has been printed or frequently performed there. The twenty-three pieces of the tracklist have been composed between the 16th and the 17th century, when the musical tastes were slowly abandoning the Renaissance in favour of the Baroque, a period that in Venice was characterized by the activity of one of the most important composers of all time, Claudio Monteverdi, who in 1613 became maestro di cappella of St Mark’s and that from that moment onwards highly influenced the musical life of La Serenissima with his imposing presence.
Monteverdi’s music is not included in Una serata venexiana, as the album explores the world of long forgotten composers as Gasparo Zanetti (Aria del Gran Duca, La Bergamasca), Niccolò Piffaro (Di lassar tuo divo aspetto), Marco Uccellini (Sonata seconda “La Luciminia contenta”), Francesco Patavino (Dillà dal’acqua, Le pur morte feragu/Venni gia la Bergamasca) and above all the celebrated Orlando di Lasso (Susanne ung jour) and Salomone Rossi (Sinfonia à 5, Sinfonia grave, Gagliarda detta la Massara). These and the other composers were not all active in Venice, but they lived and worked in different cities of the Italian peninsula: the major part of them had links to Northern cities and courts as Padua, Modena and Mantua, but in some cases they lived in the South, as Diego Ortiz (Recercada Ruggero), a Spanish composer active at the court of Naples, and the one who took his post, Andrea Falconieri (Passacaglia), and in one case abroad, as Orlando di Lasso wrote the piece Susanne ung jour for the Munich court.
The purpose of Una serata venexiana is to make the listener «imagine winds and strings competing with their art in the relaxed atmosphere of a tavern» and actually the recording shows an extraordinary balance or better a contraposition between the two groups of instruments, a contraposition that gives a peculiar “colour” to the recording and that ideally links together all the pieces, even those where one of the instruments seems to have the better of the others, as it happens with the violin in Uccellini’s Sonata seconda, a virtuosic, even “reckless” composition superbly played by violinist Anne Schumann, and with the recorder (Hildegard Wippermann) in Fabritio Caroso’s delightful La Villanella Balletto.
Every piece is stylishly performed. Capella de la Torre is an extremely skilled and accomplished ensemble that really knows how to perform this music in an appealing way without relying on something risky as fast tempos. It is actually a sort of Mediterranean laziness one of the main features of Una serata venexiana and in this approach the title is truly, completely explained. The pieces in themselves are not connected with the idea of “evening”, but it is conjured up also by the mood of the compositions, a mood that sometimes is thoughtful (the anonymous Pan de miglio caldo), some others melancholic (Falconeri’s Passacalle), but also cheerful (Giacomo Spiardo’s Suono del Ballo de Cigni) and irony (Di lassar tuo divo aspetto) and that is usually influenced by a noble state of mind as in the Aria di Gran Duca, to which it seems to belong preferably despite its popular origins, or from Giacomo Gastoldi’s motet Domine ad adjuvandum me. The sense of relaxation of all these pieces reminds easily of the mood of someone who finally finds a moment to divert his mind from the troubles of the day and to enjoy something that was not possible to enjoy before, possibly in the “tavern” mentioned by the booklet notes. In this way, the circle is closed and the atmosphere of this recording has a good explanation.
Indeed Una serata venexiana is an inspiring recording offering an amazing selection of early music that is rarely heard and that it is superbly exalted by the performance of Capella de la Torre. It is really easy to imagine to be in Venice and to wander in its calli while listening to this fine and original recording.