Bernardo Pasquini, Michelangelo Rossi, Girolamo Cavazzoni, Girolamo Cavazzoni, Giovanni de Macque, Girolamo Frescobaldi.
The Organ of Novalesa
This recording of music for organ opens with a Bergamasca by the baroque composer Bernardo Pasquini, and similarly concludes with the another Bergamasca by the late renaissance composer Girolamo Frescobaldi. This very popular “canzone da ballo” (or dance song) in binary meter, originated—obviously—from the province of the lovely Lombard city of Bergamo, and was very widespread in the 16th and 17th centuries; indeed, an early (vocal) example is found in the third book of Villotte del fiore by Filippo Azzaiolo from 1569. Soon, organists would appropriate the dance form for themselves, and despite its clearly secular—if not actually folk—origins, they did not hesitate to carry it over to the most liturgical of instruments. The great Frescobaldi, an organist from Ferrara, where he spent nearly his entire career (with the exception of a brief sojourn in Mantua and another longer period in Florence), placed it at the end of his so-called Messa della Madonna and included it in his most celebrated organ collection: Fiori musicali [di diverse composizioni, Toccate, Kyrie, Canzoni, Capricci e Ricercari] (as the full title reads). This collection, published in Venice in 1635, is a veritable compendium of the most popular organ genres and forms of the time, and contains no less than forty-six pieces. Frescobaldi’s own elaboraton of the famous Bergamasca—we might call it an “evergreen” today, at the top of the “hit parade”—is a series of tasteful variations in imitative style, composed in the modal language typical of more ancient idioms. Diatonic for the most part, it does not lacks in chromatic streaks which increasingly accentuate an element of pathos, culminating in the brilliant luminosity of the epilogue. As for the seventeenth-century Pasquini, who begins this CD, he was a Roman organist at the churches of Santa Maria Maggiore and Aracoeli. In addition, he was a composer of unquestionable invention whose name has come down to us for his famous Toccata con lo scherzo del Cuccò. Pasquini’s version of the Bergamasca is captivating for its freshness and genuineness, and is further enhanced on this recording by the use of the usignolo register of the organ which, at the close of the piece, adds a touch of witty eccentricity, in keeping with the typical baroque tastes for onomatopoeia.