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The Instrumental Music on Magnificat’s Grandi Program

The primary focus of our concerts this weekend is the music of Alessandro Grandi, including the modern premieres of the first cantatas from his 1620 collection Cantade et Arie a voce sola. We will also be playing instrumental music by several composers associated with Venice during Grandi’s tenure at St. Mark’s. It turned out to be a wonderful opportunity to re-visit some old “friends” like Cavalli’s extraordinary Canzon a 3 from Musiche sacrae, and some music that’s “new” to Magnificat.

Though musicologists have speculated that Dario Castello probably worked at St. Mark’s and probably played violin and/or cornetto, in fact nothing is known about him beyond his music, which was all published in Venice. The numerous reprints of his sonatas and canzoni as late as 1650 attest to his popularity and influence. We will perform the first of his two part sonatas “in stil moderno” published in 1629.

More is known about Biagio Marini, a virtuoso violinist who composed both vocal and instrumental music. Marini traveled extensively and he held positions in Brussels, Neuburg an der Donau, Düsseldorf, Padua, Parma, Ferrara, Milan, Bergamo, and Brescia in addition to his work in Venice. We will perform two works by Marini: his Capriccio, subtitled “in which two violins play four parts” (a reference to the extensive double-stopping in the fiddle parts), and the sonata La Orlandina from Affetti musicali, published in 1617.

Two of the composers represented served in leadership roles in the St. Mark’s musical establishment. Giovanni Rovetta succeeded Grandi as vice maestro at St. Mark’s and assumed the post of maestro di cappella after Monteverdi’s death in 1641. Rovetta’s only published purely instrumental works are four canzonas included in a motet collection from 1626 and we will be performing the second of these canzani.

Francesco Cavalli was engaged as an organist at St. Mark’s while Grandi was in Venice. He went on to become maestro di cappella after Rovetta’s death. Best known for his many operas, Cavalli was also a prolific and respected composer
of sacred and instrumental music. In 1656, Cavalli published his magesterial collection of Vespers music Musiche Sacrae, which served as the basis for Magnificat’s Christmas concert on the San Francisco Early Music Sopciety series in 1996. The collection includes several instrumental canzon for 3 to 12 parts. We will be performing the first of these canzoni.

Hanneke van Proosdij will play a harpsichord Intavolature by Giovanni Picchi, who was hired as organist at the Venetian church of the Frari in 1607 and from 1623 to his death he was also organist at the confraternity Scuola di San Rocco.

Though he spent time in Venice, Johann Hieronymus Kapsberger is most closely associated with Rome. A prolific and highly original composer, Kapsberger is chiefly remembered today for his music for lute, theorbo and chitarrone, which was seminal in the development of these as solo instruments. David Tayler will perform Kapsberger’s Toccata Arpeggiata, a representative of a genre of lute music published during the first decade of the 17th century that exploits the instrument’s facility for appegiation in a way that reminds me of stile briseè of Gaulthier and Chambonieres.

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