Music by Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli, Frescobaldi, Merula, Guami, Malvezzi, Soderini, Pasquini
René Saorgin (Organ by Graziadio Antegnati (1636, rest. 1958) Chiesa di San Carlo, Brescia)
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This selection of works by some of the most eminent 16th- and 17th-century Italian organist-composers of organ music takes in three of the most important instrumental forms of the period: the canzone, toccata and ricercare.
The canzone derived from the French vocal chanson and is characterised by its alternation of imitative and homophonic writing with a virtuoso style lighter and more agile than that of the contemporary ricercare. The latter form grew out of the vocal motet of the type established by Josquin and his successors, its central characteristic being the imitative treatment of a series of related themes.
The third of the forms, the toccata, is associated with freedom of touch, style and idiom; its frequently demanding virtuoso writing and use of tempo rubato make it similar in nature to an improvisation. Andrea Gabrieli’s toccatas alternate rapid passagework with chordal sections, while Claudio Merulo’s consist of a succession of contrasting fugal and freely composed episodes. Girolamo Frescobaldi transformed the toccata by placing greater emphasis on unfettered imaginative expression than on structural demands.
This album takes us all the way from the 16th-century Venice of Andrea Gabrieli, organist of St Mark’s, to Bernardo Pasquini (1637–1710), in whom we reach the far limits of Baroque organ music, the lighter, less condensed aspect of his style foretelling the ultimate decline of the Italian organ school.