“Quelli che odono le Harmonie, e li Numeri, si sentono trammutare secondo la dispositione dell’animo, alcuna volta nell’amore; alcuna volta nell’ira; e alcuna volta nell’audacia; il che da altro non aviene che dalla simiglianza, che si trova tra le [sopradette] passioni con le harmonie.”
“Those who hear the Harmonies and the Numbers feel themselves changed according the disposition of their soul: at times into love, at times into rage, and at times into daring; and this is due to nothing else then to the similarity found between the above-mentioned passions and the harmonies”.
“Affettuoso”, from the Latin affectus (“stricken, disposed”) maintained its meaning and is mirrored, almost unaltered, in modern Italian. It indicates a person changed in his or her way of being, transformed by being stricken by a passion. The use of this term by theorists and musicians is particularly fascinating. It happens within the theory “of the affections”, which, in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, attributed to each compositional mode or tone a distinctive ethos of its own. It related musical nature with the nature of the human soul, in a total syntony with the Renaissance ideals of equilibrium and beauty. In this specific case, the ethos takes flesh in the ricercare or ricercata. It is an imitative compositional form, even though it is bound to the coeval improvisational practice, as realised in vocal music, i.e. in the polyphonic motet and in the madrigal. The ricercari written by three representatives of the Neapolitan keyboard school linked with the entourage of Carlo Gesualdo, prince of Venosa, mirror this practice.
“Non move mano o spira fiato che non empia l’aria di quella dolcissima armonia”: “He cannot move his hands or breathe without the air being filled by that sweetest harmony”. With these words Rocco Rodio was celebrated and admired, both as a harpsichordist and organist, and as the composer of “ricercate” and of vocal music. These sentences were written about him, also known as “Rocchus Rodius Civitatis Barensis” (c. 1535- Naples, c. 1615), in a letter by Giovanni Camillo Maffei, who authored treatises. Rodio’s Libro di Ricercate a quattro (1575) is his only exclusively instrumental work, and the first to have appeared in a score printed with moveable type. This system would be highly employed in Naples between the end of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth century. That volume contains five Ricercate and four Fantasie su Canti Fermi, which epitomize the idea of vocal music performed on the keyboard. The first ricercata, written in the seventh mode, is “of a serious and grave nature, even though it awakens joy and a sweet sorrow”, and is suited to sumptuous and sober words. The second ricercata is in the twelfth tone. It has a joyful character and is composed by a subject in the fashion of a canzona. It undergoes a masterful contrapuntal metamorphosis, being at times diminished, at times augmented, at times varied. The third ricercata is in the same tuono but has an entirely different character. It is clearly divided in sections. It initially presents a subject with a “lamenting and humble” nature, similar to a cantilena, and then opens up and concludes on a serene song. The nature of the third mode, in the fourth ricercata, is “pleading and moving to tears”. Its subjects unfold succeeding each other as if in a canon. The fifth ricercata is enchanting in its monothematic obstinacy, and is built on the famous theme “la sol fa re mi” (A G F D E). The nature of the mode in which it is composed is simple and melancholic, suited to the words representing tears and sadness.
Among the “excellent composers of the city of Naples”, and the “excellent players of organ and harp in two courses” (following a typically Neapolitan and Iberian tradition, whereby many keyboard players were also virtuosos of the harp) was Ascanio Mayone (Naples, c. 1565- Naples, 1627). As a youth he was appointed organist of the Annunziata church, where he had studied as a child. Later he was appointed organist at the Royal Chapel, at first together with Giovanni Maria Trabaci, and later as the principal organist under the leadership of Giovanni de Macque, his former teacher, who at the time was Chapel Master of the Viceroy’s orchestra. His Primo libro di diversi capricci per sonare (1603) dates back to that period, and it predates by a few months the book of Ricercate written by his colleague Trabaci. Among the diversi capricci are found and published also four ricercari. The first of them, after the exposition of a peremptory subject, allows the deprecatory nature of the second theme slowly to surface. This is realised through the more and more frequent repetition of the subject’s second section, whose incipit is marked by an interval of an ascending minor second. The second ricercare in the seventh tone is more bizarre; this tone was defined by the historical treatises as indignans or iracundus. The repetition of the subject’s head sounds somewhere between the admonitory and the menacing; it becomes mocking since an indicative second section, built over a segment of the countersubject, now turned into a new theme. The third ricercare in the tenth tone, is dominated by a touching sadness. Its subject vainly attempts to reach a climax, without actually succeeding. The fourth ricercare is inconsolable. Its subject, constrained within the ambitus of a minor third, comes back unavoidably in an obsessive and obstinate fashion. It is always similar to itself, interrupted only by the citation or reminiscence of a subject that had already been employed by the maestro Giovanni de Macque in his ricercare of the second tone.
Different from the keyboard works by Rodio and Mayone, whose original prints have been preserved, the ricercari by the Flemish master Giovanni de Macque (Valenciennes, ca. 1550 – Naples, 1614) are known thanks to a collection of which we know only the title Ricercate et Canzoni francese a quattro (Napoli, 1586), dedicated to Carlo Gesualdo. Moreover, the Florentine manuscript I-Fn Magl. XIX 106 bis, preserved in the Central National Library of Florence has resurfaced, with works attributed to him. De Macque arrived in Naples and found a job at the court of Gesualdo da Venosa, after a fruitful stay in Rome. His friendship with musician Bartolomeo Le Roy, who was active both in Rome and in Naples, allowed him to accomplish the task of organist and master of the Royal Chapel until the end of his days, so that he was nicknamed “Neapolitan by antiquity” (i.e. due to his long permanence). His ricercare del primo tono has a majestic nature and a grave harmony. It presents a subject whose elements are all articulated in a severe counterpoint. Leaving no room for freer imitative passages, it creates a crescendo of grandiosity culminating in the stretto of the concluding coda. The character of the ricercare del secondo tono is ”moestus”, sad; this tone was called by the ancients “a tearful, humble, deprecatory” tone. By virtue of this, its subject offers madrigal-like, almost exclusively descending lines which, intertwining with each other, make the harmony sad and doleful. The ricercare del quarto tono is a meek plea between two lovers. The fugue’s subject, moving by ascending and descending semitones, is joined to a countersubject by tones and semitones. This creates a subdued dialogue, which becomes vehement in the finale without giving way to rage. The ricercare del quinto tono is victorious and “asper”, precisely due to the semitone’s intrinsic position within the modus. The widespread use of the leap of descending fourth or fifth lends to this tone a playful and delightful nature. The ancients maintained that it brought “happiness, lifting the soul by annoying cares”.
By way of conclusion, I would like to draw the reader’s attention to the instrument I chose for this recording. It is a copy after an anonymous Neapolitan harpsichord dating from about 1550. It is entirely made of maple wood, and this particularity lends a lovable roundness to the sound. The copy built by Robert Livi (whom I thank here for his availability and for the tuning) is different from that at the museum by virtue of its broken octave and of its reconstruction of the original disposition, which had an added stop of 4’; this further enriches with colour the works of the Neapolitan maestros.
Ilaria Monticelli © 2021
English Translation: Chiara Bertoglio
She started piano studies at Conservatory "G. Donizetti" in Bergamo (Italy) under Maria Grazia Bellocchio. She began to be mainly active as pianist in a piano duo, winnig some important national and european chamber music competitions that took her to perform in concert halls, theaters and festivals in Italy.
Musically crucial was the acquaintance with the organist and harpsichordist Matteo Messori, thanks to whom she discovered historical keayboards.
She completed so her studies in harpsichord with full marks at the same Conservatory under Messori, and later moved to Cologne to improve under Michael Borgstede at the "Hochschule für Musik und Tanz", where she plays and collaborates both as soloist and as continuist.
(b Naples, c1565; d Naples, 9 March 1627). Italian composer, organist and harpist. He studied in Naples with G.D. da Nola; Camillo Lambardi was a fellow pupil. In 1593 he succeeded Scipione Stella as organist at the church of SS Annunziata with a salary of eight ducats per month. From 1595 he shared the duties of maestro di cappella with Lambardi. He remained at SS Annunziata until 1621 at the earliest, perhaps until his death. Scipione Cerreto listed him in 1601 among the excellent performers on the organ and the harp ‘a due ordini’ (a chromatic harp capable of playing sharps and flats). In 1602 he was appointed second organist of the royal chapel of the Spanish viceroys (the first organist was Trabaci). He probably performed in the houses of Marthos de Gorostiola and G.B. Suardo, Neapolitan noblemen to whom he dedicated his keyboard volumes. He became first organist of the royal chapel in September 1614 when Trabaci succeeded Macque as maestro di cappella. Among his pupils were Pietro Guarino and his own son Giulio, called ‘Ciullo dell’Arpa’, both of whom held major posts as organists in Naples.
Giovanni de Macque
(b Valenciennes, ?1548–50; d Naples, Sept 1614). Flemish composer, organist and teacher, resident in Italy. He was a leading composer of the Neapolitan school in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
(b Bari, Apulia, c1535; d Naples, after 1615). Italian composer and theorist. Both his volume of masses and the Corona delle napolitane (RISM 157018) describe him as a native of Bari, and although the latter mentions that he had served Sigismund August of Poland he probably did not have a permanent post there. Kastner noted that Rodio's name does not appear in the surviving lists of Polish court musicians and suggested that his contacts with the Polish court originated with the marriage of Bona Sforza of Bari to Sigismund August. In his works printed after 1575 Rodio is described as ‘Napolitano’, and although it cannot be proved that he held a post either at the court or at the cathedral there, he evidently cultivated the acquaintance of distinguished Neapolitan composers and performers. He was a member of Gesualdo's academy in Naples, and together with other musicians founded the Camerata di Propaganda per l'Affinamento del Gusto Musicale. He probably also had ties with Spanish composers such as Diego Ortiz and Francesco Salinas.
Rodio's sacred works display a command of counterpoint and his madrigals and canzoni contain progressive harmonic and melodic features. The Regole di musica, which was reprinted twice and widely circulated outside Italy, also contains advanced theoretical views. Rodio edited and contributed a piece to the Aeri racolti (15778), which is an interesting demonstration of Neapolitan attempts to adapt arie da cantare to various poetic forms.