Canzonas, Dances and Variations
In contrast to Merula’s op. 1, of which a great part is recorded here for the first time, his Canzoni, overo sonate concertate per Chiesa e Camera…Libro terzo op. 12, printed in Venice in 1637 by Alessandro Vincenti, have already found their way into the concert repertoire of instrumental music from the first half of the 17th century. The title underscores the fact that the author did not intend the collection merely for “chamber” situations, but instead at least partially for liturgical and devotional purposes, i. e. , “da chiesa”. It is not clear if Merula was thus anticipating (as many assume) the division which would later appear in Arcangelo Corelli’s music between Sonata da chiesa and Sonata da camera. At least the three Balli, like the variations on the Basso di Ruggiero and the Chiaccona, derived from dances and thus secular music, would lead one to place them in the realm of chamber music, while the canzonas might be performed in church. In any case, Merula has consciously overcome such boundaries by including among his published sacred vocal music a Psalm setting of a motet based on the Chiaccona and a Mass on the Ruggiero.