1600: Masterpieces of 17th-century Italian Instrumental Music
Rinaldo Alessandrini’s chronological survey of Italian music for four-part strings from the seicento stretches from a canzona published in Venice by Gabrieli (1608) to string concertos by Torelli (Augsburg, 1698) and Dall’Abaco (Amsterdam, 1712). Olivier Lexa’s erudite booklet-note points out that this repertory not only demonstrates the gradual development of instrumental music during the 17th century but also represents Italian composers whose influence extended far across Europe, because they travelled to places such as Antwerp (Frescobaldi), Munich (Gabrieli), Warsaw (Merula), Düsseldorf (Salvatore), Versailles (Legrenzi), Berlin (Torelli), Vienna and London (Bononcini).
Concerto Italiano’s lean ensemble of a string quartet, harpsichord and archlute plays the descending chromatic figures in a lamentful Fantaisie from Rossi’s Orfeo with finesse and sensitivity; it leads without pause into a spirited canzona by Gabrieli, followed immediately by a witty canzona by Merula. His piece was published only seven years after Gabrieli’s but Concerto Italiano’s zesty performance illuminates the distinct offering of a composer who was about 40 years younger. Alessandrini’s programme has a seamless artistic flow that gently pulls the listener along an illuminating narrative: the sombre dissonances of a short piece by de Macque and an ensuing dance-like canzona by Frescobaldi are examples of extraordinary music that is brief and concise, whereas an extended battaglia sonata by Castello gives the violinists something to get really stuck into, in both crisp battle music and softer melancholic passages. A short ballet of seven movements from Gasparo Zanetti’s collection of dances (published 1645) is played exquisitely, and Alessandrini ensures that later music by Legrenzi and Torelli possesses astute dance rhythms and shapely harmonic details.