Official Release: 14 January 2021
Vallotti and the composition of the Marian Antiphons for soprano, strings and continuo
The idea of exploring Francesco Antonio Vallotti’s works, more than three centuries after his birth, comes from the desire of returning to today’s world a small page of Music History which had hitherto remained unexplored. This will facilitate the rediscovery of a very fecund composer of sacred music, who was for a long time the Chapel Master in the Basilica del Santo in Padua. Vallotti is best known for his theoretical writings, but he was in fact a very productive composer of religious music. His works elicited the interest, admiration and enthusiasm of his contemporaries (and not only of them). However, the short-sighted Caecilian Reform of the late nineteenth century inopportunely stigmatized his music as “Baroque”, and thus worth despising.
Following Maria Nevilla Massaro’s study of Vallotti’s catalogue of works, our attempt to remove from oblivion the music of this musician friar, giving him back the aesthetic dignity he deserves, resulted in the choice of a specific thematic itinerary. This path is that of the Marian Antiphons for soprano, strings and continuo.
The expression “Marian Antiphons” cumulatively indicates a group of four Antiphons. They are short liturgical texts usually connected to a Psalm. They are sung in various types of worship services, and are dedicated to the figure of Mary, Jesus’ Mother. Dating back to the 11th-12th century, they were performed (following the practice of Gregorian chant) at the end of Compline in four different periods which, taken together, embrace the entire church year. They are Alma Redemptoris Mater (“O Holy Mother of our Redeemer”), Ave Regina Coelorum (“Hail O Queen of Heaven”), Regina Coeli (“O Queen of Heaven”), and Salve Regina. Starting from the 15th century, they were the object of numerous polyphonic and soloistic elaborations. Francesco Antonio Vallotti contributed to this tradition; he composed his versions of the Antiphons for the Basilica del Santo where they were regularly performed during the church year.
The manuscripts of the Marian Antiphons are accurately compiled and very easy to interpret. This not only facilitates the transcriber’s work dramatically; it also demonstrates the copyist’s excellent skill. It can be inferred, from a calligraphic study, that the copyist was one and the same for all the antiphons. With the establishment of the Musical Archive and in parallel with the surfacing of an increasingly evident stylistic continuity and musico-historical awareness in the Chapel, the copyist’s work was functional and oriented to the preservation of the manuscripts themselves as perfect “fair copies”. Equally well-preserved performing parts are extant for each score; this is because these works were regularly performed during the worship services in the Basilica del Santo.
Vallotti wrote ten Marian Antiphons for soprano voice: two Salve Regina, three Ave Regina Coelorum, four Alma Redemptoris Mater and one Regina Coeli. The performing forces are always the same for all Antiphons, i.e. voice, strings and continuo. Similarly, the tripartite structure is also common to all Antiphons. It usually consists of an “andante” first movement, of a “quick” second movement and of a “slow” third movement. Structurally, the choice of concluding with a slow movement (generally a “Largo” or “Larghetto”, with the exception of the Regina Coeli which closes on a quick movement since the sung text is “Alleluia”) is interesting; we may surmise that this choice be due to the relationship between music and lyrics. With the only exception of the already-mentioned Regina Coeli, in fact, all Antiphons close with the plea to Mary that she may pray for the faithful. Thus, it is as if in the last movement, after praising Mary, one sought to create a mystical and introspective dimension. Human beings, in their fragility, ask Mary to pray for them. This intimate dimension of requesting Mary’s prayer is therefore expressed by a slow movement with a legato phrasing and broad scope.
Among the elements found in the Marian Antiphons is the frequent use of progressions and that of numerous trills and appoggiaturas in the pure Baroque style. Dynamic indications (Piano and Forte, frequently abbreviated as Pia: and For:) are found in all Antiphons. Normally, such indications are omitted at the piece’s beginning (certainly it was presumed that pieces began in Forte). However, they are always indicated at the singer’s entry, generally by means of a Piano asking the orchestra for a lighter sound, so that the solo voice could stand out. The Forte is expressed as soon as the singing ends, so that the orchestra can resurface with its full weight of sound.
Among the other elements we find the use of the continuo. It is always scrupulously numbered; it proceeds uniformly and with very few rhythmical variations. At times, however (normally in order to create contrasting effects of timbre and dynamic) the organ’s continuo part is interrupted, whilst the concertante cello continues (the continuo’s numbering is of course omitted here).
The voice’s use of the melody has a Classicizing flavour. It is sober, and careful not to exceed in virtuosity. At the same time, it Is complex: it hardly imposes itself to the ear as a simple melody, but rather results, at times, from the sum of various thematic and rhythmic cells, skillfully sewed together. This complexity is due, from the one side, to the continuing quest for a novel melodic idea; from the other, to the composer’s speculative approach, as he was interested in the continuity of harmonic combinations.
As concerns rhythm, we observe that Vallotti favours the dotted figurations, both in the scheme “dotted quaver and semiquaver”, and as in the Lombard rhythm (“semiquaver and dotted quaver”).
Another element all Marian Antiphons for soprano have in common is the use of key within the framework of the work’s structure. The first and third movement are in the same key, whilst the second is in another key, but one close to the main key. Harmonically, one observes a self-assured use of sevenths of the third and second kind, beyond (obviously) the dominant and diminished seventh; they are frequently treated without preparation and with exceptional resolutions. The use of augmented sixths is also substantial, though more restrained; it presents chordal conglomerations of the Italian and German kind.
The work of transcribing and recording of some of the Marian Antiphons brought with itself the expectation of rediscovering this musical heritage, inopportunely relegated in the past, together with the wish of making its notes sound once more. Thus, manuscripts which seemed dumb at first opened themselves to understanding and revealed themselves to be an eighteenth-century gem. They gave me the emotion of being the first soprano in three hundred years to sing those buried scores.
Giorgia Cinciripi © 2021
Giorgia studied at “G. Braga” Conservatory in Teramo, where she graduated with full marks and then she continued second level studies at the “L. D’Annunzio” Conservatory in Pescara, and the second level studies in baroque music at the “A. Casella” Conservatory in L’Aquila and she graduated magna cum laude. After the graduation she refined her skills with some important sing teachers: William Matteuzzi, Claudio Desderi and Fernando Cordeiro Opa. Guided by the soprano Roberta Invernizzi she focused her attention on baroque repertoire and she attended also some masterclasses with Sara Mingardo, Gloria Banditelli and Sonia Prina.
She graduated magna cum laude in History, Arts, Music and Entertainement at the University of L’Aquila discussing a thesis about Craziness in Dramas and Operas.
Giorgia won the competition instituted by Piccolo Festival del Friuli for the opera La Cecchina, ossia la buona figliola of Piccinni that was been conducted by M° F. Bressan and staged by E. Marini in Udine. She plays the role of Maddalena in the oratorio La Resurrezione of Haendel in a famous baroque music festival in Royaumont (Paris) with the orchestra “La Risonanza” conducted by F. Bonizzoni.
She sang the following operas: Semele (Ino and Cupid) of Eccles in the Festival Oude Muziek in Utrecht conducted by F. Bobizzioni, Aci, Galatea e Polifemo (Aci) of Haendel and Dido and Aeneas (Belinda) of Purcell in the festival La Rocca Barocca with the orchestra Gli Archi del Cherubino; Così fan tutte (Despina), Don Giovanni (Zerlina), Le Nozze di Figaro (Barbarina) of W. A. Mozart with the Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto conducted by C. Desderi at the Theatres of Padova, Portogruaro and Vittorio Veneto (Venice); Eurilla e Alcindo of A. Vivaldi (Eurilla) conducted by A. Ciccolini at the Rossini Theatre in Pesaro; Paride and Elena of C. W. Gluck conducted by F. M. Bressan and staged by Andrea Cigni at the Verdi Theatre in Pisa, at the Goldoni Theatre in Livorno, at the Giglio Theatre in Lucca and at the Royal The Wallonie in Liegi; Semele (Iris) of Haendel with the baroque ensamble Les Nations and staged by Thomas Zip. Specialized in Opera Buffa of the eighteenth century, she played the main roles in: Le finte gemelle of N. Piccinni, La Serva Padrona and Livietta e Tracollo of G.B. Pergolesi, Filosofo di Campagna of B. Galuppi and La Fantesca of A. G. Hasse.
She sang also sacred repertoire’s compositions such as Mozart’s Exsultate Jubilate, Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, Vivaldi’s Gloria, and Haendel’s Messiah and Dixit.
The love and interest for the ancient music and the baroque, classical and preromantic repertorie, are the basis around which the Italico Splendore Ensemble was born and grew up; from the very beginning, in 2010, it conducted its work mainly in this direction: a constant and deep research on the sources and a scrupulous philological method.
The aim of the members is to do a research work in order to revalue less popular repertoires, to rediscover unknown authors, operate on ancient manuscripts, giving new life to hidden musical treasures regarding a period of a great splendor of the Italian musical art, source of pride in the European courts.
The musical production has already been expressed by a regular concert activity at important musical seasons and festivals, and also by the achievement of recording projects for labels such as Dynamic, Brilliant Classics and Novantiqua Records. All members cooperate in total harmony, bringing their human and professional contribute, besides the artistic one, under the guide of the artistic director Alessandro Andriani and his brother Claudio, violin concertmaster.
All members, following the study of performing practice indicated by the treatises and essays of the period, play on original or authentic copies of instruments of the period, using gut strings, philological bows, historical keyboards and original wind instruments, in order to reproduce accurately the sound effects required by the composers.
GIORGIO MATTEOLI & ENSEMBLE FESTA RUSTICA
Born in Rome, Matteoli graduated in recorder, cello, chamber music with a degree in Music History at La Sapienza University (Rome), in addition he studied compositions and conducting (Milan and Como Conservatories). In 1994, he founded the Ensemble Festa Rustica, with this ensemble recorded extensively over 16 CDs for Agorà, Amadeus, Musicaimmagine, ASV Gaudeamus, and Da Vinci Classics. Francesco Mancini’s Concertos for Recorder and Strings (world-premiere recording, Musicaimmagine) has been acclaimed by the international critique as “one of the world’s best classical music recordings produced in 1995” (Fanfare Magazine). As recorder player, Giorgio Matteoli recorded with many early music ensembles such as Ensemble Aurora, Cappella di San Petronio, Alessandro Stradella Consort, Ensemble La Fenice, Academia Montis Regalis and he was involved in the soundtrack of the international production “The Bible” (music by Ennio Morricone and Marco Frisina) which won the Kable ACE for the best soundtrack of the year. He was invited to hold Masterclasses and Concerts in Japan (Knowledge Theater, Osaka), Israel (Tel Aviv Conservatory), as well as France, Spain, Albania, Montecarlo, Germany, Romania, Turkey, and the Czech Republic among others. As a principal cello and recorder player, Matteoli performed with orchestras as RAI-Rome and Naples Radio-Television Orchestra, Orchestra Verdi (Milan), ORL-Rome and Lazio Chamber Orchestra in Italy and abroad: Teatro Campoamor (Oviedo, Spain), Festival de musique sacré de la Chaise-Dieu (Haute-Loire, France), Ente Concerti Marialisa De Carolis (Sassari, Italy). As a conductor, Matteoli has conducted Orchestra Guido Cantelli, Nuova Cameristica, Orchestra Sinfonica Italiana and the AMR-The Plucked Strings Orchestra of Rome (chief conductor 2013-2014), Roma Tre Orchestra, and The Albanian National Radio Television Simphony Orchestra and many others. As musicologist, he wrote numerous articles published on Italian magazines like Orfeo, Amadeus, Cd Classics, and as president of Early Music Italia Association he is the founder and artistic director of “Brianza Classica”, an important 17 years old chamber music festival which takes place in about thirty locations in the Northern area of Milan.
Francesco Antonio Vallotti
(b Vercelli, Piedmont, 11 June 1697; d Padua, 10 Jan 1780). Italian composer and theorist. He was enabled by Padre Beccaria, superior of the Franciscan monastery of S Eusebi (the cathedral of Vercelli), to study with G.A. Bissone, maestro di cappella at the cathedral. His scores dated 1710 and 1712 demonstrate a thorough schooling in composition. An interest in theology and philosophy led him to further studies; at the age of 18 he visited Chambéry to join the Franciscan order, and he then spent a year in Crest (Dauphiné) where he took vows on 16 December 1716. By special dispensation, on account of his youth, from the Bishop of Saluzzo, Vallotti was ordained priest on 7 July 1720, after a period of study in Cuneo under the philosopher Castellani the elder. In 1721 Castellani sponsored him in a public debate possibly in Milan where he went to study with the theologian D.F. Donati; Donati moved to Padua and Vallotti followed him, arriving on 6 November 1721.