Frescobaldi's concertato motets.
The publication of the eleventh volume of Girolamo Frescobaldi's Opere complete (complete works) has been eagerly awaited by musicians devoted to this early baroque master. It appears six years after the twelfth volume of the set, which started in 1975, and which now includes all of Frescobaldi's works originally published during the composer's lifetime or shortly thereafter (with a few small exceptions--see below). The eleventh volume presents what is probably the least known, and until now least accessible part of his compositional output: the concertato motets (or sacred concertos) for one to four voices and organ continuo, originally published in 1627 as a set of part-books with the unwieldy title Liber secundus diversarum modulationum singulis, binis, ternis, quaternisque vocibus. What makes the appearance of this volume particularly welcome is that while thirteen of the thirty-one motets have been available in print for some years (Mottetti a 1. 2 e 3 voci con continuo, ed. Christopher Stembridge, Capolavori musicali dei secoli XVIIo e XVIIIo [Padua: G. Zanibon, 1987]), the remaining eighteen, which survive incomplete due to the loss of the cantus secundus partbook (also containing altus parts), appear here for the first time, in a reconstructed version by the editors.
To add newly composed parts to these works was a bold undertaking--one that might even seem to contradict the essential nature of a critical scholarly edition, which attempts to present to us, to the extent possible, the original work, with a minimum of editorial intrusion. Of course that is an illusion, because any editorial work, even on small matters like accidentals, barlines, beaming, or continuo figures, involves interpretation. But it takes quite a few steps from there--giant steps--to add new parts to a contrapuntal texture. Before discussing how successful the editors have been as stand-ins for the composer, let's take a closer look at the Liber secundus and its background, as presented in this edition.
Presumably the volume was preceded by a Liber primus, but of such a publication no trace has been found. In fact, if it were not for the unique surviving copy of the Liber secundus in the British Library--even if incomplete--we would not even have known of Frescobaldi's extensive engagement with the concertato motet. Only four other motets credited to his name have come down to us in anthologies published in Rome between 1616 and 1625. One of these, Iesu Rex admirabilis, included in the collection Sacri affetti (Rome: L. A. Soldi, 1625), does also appear with some variants in the 1627 Liber secundus (no. 24). If we assume that, similarly, the other three pieces, surviving in anthologies from 1616, 1618, and 1622, were subsequently incorporated in a Liber primus, the earlier volume's likely publication date would fall somewhere between 1622 and 1625.
With his collection of settings of sacred Latin texts for one to four voices and organ continuo (basso per l'organo), Frescobaldi was following a trend in sacred music production that had been gaining ground since the beginning of the century. The editors of the volume under review report that in the three decades preceding the publication of the Liber secundas, over forty collections of such works appeared in Rome, representing some twenty-five different composers. While many of these works betrayed their ancestry in the polyphonic motet, with the continuo bass often merely supporting the lowest voice or voices, the vocal lines, particularly in the motets for one and two voices and in die solo sections of those for more voices, displayed the newly fashionable florid and expressive vocal styles. Frescobaldi's motets, unlike his keyboard works, do not stand out from those of his contemporaries by virtue of a striking, innovative language, but they do distinguish themselves by the skill with which he combines sophisticated counterpoint with stylish vocal affetti, and by how he responds to different texts with a variety of styles, ranging from smooth imitative polyphony to rapidly shifting madrigalistic textures.
In his dedication to the powerful musical patron Cardinal Scipione Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V and archpriest of St. Peter's, the composer declares that the collection is intended to be sung in the church and for devotional use ("ad Ecclesiae concentus, et usum pietatis"), but offers no more specific purpose, and none can be discerned from the choice of texts. Approximately half of the pieces use liturgical texts, mostly from the Holy Offices, although not in any systematic groupings. The other texts include paraphrases of psalm verses and nonscriptural, devotional poetry. One suspects that some of the pieces may have been written over a period of time for special occasions or to fulfill a request by a patron or colleague, and that at some point the composer decided to supplement those with additional pieces to form a balanced collection for various voice types and combinations. In fact, the only evident organization within the collection is the one also encountered in two other collections that Frescobaldi assembled during those same years: the instrumental ensemble canzonas of 1628, and the Arie musicali (secular vocal ensemble works) of 1630. Like those other collections, the Liber secundus is ordered by increasing number of voices (one to four for the motets and canzonas; one to three for the Arie), and within each category, according to different combinations of high and low voice types. Thus the composer made available settings that would satisfy demands for a wide variety of musical forces.
Marco Della Sciucca and Marina Toffetti's edition of the Liber secundas observes the same high scholarly standards followed in the previous volumes. The substantial introduction and critical report are presented in their entirety both in Italian and in English translation, a welcome improvement over some of the earlier volumes, which included only a summary in English. An overview is presented of sacred concerto publications in the first decades of the seventeenth century, but the editors rightfully lament that this large repertory has not been investigated sufficiently for the creation of a proper context for Frescobaldi's Liber secundus. They express some reservation over earlier speculations, e.g., by Frederick Hammond (Girolamo Frescobaldi [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983]; translated into Italian by Roberto Pagano under the same title [Palermo: L'epos, 2002]), 123; that, in view of Scipione Borghese's position as archpriest of St. Peter's, these works may have been written for performance in the Cappella Giulia. They feel that the more intimate concertos for one and two voices, with their quickly moving soloistic lines, might have gotten lost in the vast space of the newly completed basilica, often filled by a large assemblage of performing forces. While they suggest that the three- and four-voice pieces, with a more restrained, contrapuntal style, might have worked better there, especially if the parts were doubled by additional voices, such speculation does not make a very persuasive argument for associating these works with die Cappella Giulia.
After consideration of the texts set in these motets, their sources, and possible liturgical uses, the editors proceed to a rather exhaustive (and to this reader, exhausting) analysis of the individual motets, grouped by the numbers and types of voices. Tonal types, contrapuntal techniques, cadential formations, melodic figurations, rhythmic styles, and text setting are examined for each of the thirty-one pieces with the unrelenting thoroughness of an old-fashioned doctoral dissertation. The editors may understandably have been drawn to such a close analysis of these works in order to prepare for their task of reconstructing the missing parts, but one can still question the need to share all of it with their readers.
Be that as it may, the two editors are to be congratulated for their success in "channeling" the old master. For the most part, their newly composed voices fit seamlessly with the surviving ones, and I suspect that if we didn't know, most of us would have a hard time identifying the added voice. To be sure, every once in a while a passage does not quite ring true, or in any case, might ask for a little tweaking. I have not collected statistics to back this up, but I have the impression that the reconstructed passages more often tend to end phrases on unisons, open fifths, and octaves where the composer might have sweetened those phrase endings with thirds or tenths. For example, in Vidi speciosam sicut columbam, mm. 35 to 38 (p. 13), one hears perfect consonances on the first and third minim beat of every measure for three measures in a row, producing a hollow effect that seems uncharacteristic. That the existing parts allow for quite diverse realizations is shown by the reconstructions of two of the motets. Ego clamavi and Jesus flos mater Virginis, published some thirty years earlier by Francesco Luisi, which hardly share a note with those by Della Sciucca and Toffetti (Francesco Luisi, "Il Liber secundus diversarum modulationum (1627): Proposte di realizzazione delle parte mancante," in Girolamo Frescobaldi nel IV centenario della nascita: Atti del Convegno internazionale di studi (Ferrara, 9-14 settembre 1983), ed. Sergio Durante and Dinko Fabris [Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 1986], 163-93. Personally I find the ones in the Opere complete more attractive, although Luisi's are certainly serviceable.
Notwithstanding the comprehensive scope of this edition, there are several items that I miss and wish the editors had included. Most important of these are Frescobaldi's individual motets appearing in anthologies of works by various composers from the years preceding the publication of the Liber secundus, which I referred to earlier. Only one of these, Iesu Rex admirabilis, contained in the 1625 anthology Sacri affetti (Rome: L. A. Soldi, 1625), and appearing in a slightly different version in the Liber secundus (as mentioned above), is included in the Opere complete volume, and since the 1625 version is complete, the editors sensibly did not reconstruct the missing cantus secundus part for their edition of the Liber secundus version. However, the other three earlier motets--Peccavi super numerum (in Selectae cantiones [Rome: B. Zannetti, 1616]), Angelus ad pastores ait (in Scelta di mottetti [Rome: B. Zannetti, 1618]), and Ego sum panis (in Lilia campi [Rome: G. B. Robletti, 1621])--are not to be found in this volume, which is surprising and disappointing. This omission represents a departure from the tradition established in volumes 7 (Arie musicali) and 8 (Canzoni) of the set, in which all pieces in the respective genres published in earlier anthologies were included. Since except for those three motets, the twelve volumes of the Opere complete include all of Frescobaldi's compositions originally published in the seventeenth century (with an announced additional volume to present unpublished works surviving only in manuscript), one wonders where in the Opere complete those three pieces are going to find a home. For now one will have to turn to Stembridge's aforementioned edition, which does include them.
With regard to the introductory material, along with the complete translation of the Italian text, one would certainly like to have seen a translation of the Latin title page and dedication letter to Scipione Borghese--clearly an essential document to this edition. Again, one must go elsewhere to find it, in this case to Frederick Hammond, Girolamo Frescobaldi: A Guide to Research (New York: Garland Publishing, 1988), 195. Similarly, one misses plates with reproductions of the title and dedication pages and of sample pages of the original edition, as customarily were included in earlier volumes.
Finally, I am disappointed that the editors made no reference to the entries of the Liber secundus and its contents in the Frescobaldi Thematic Catalogue Online (FTCO, http://frescobaldi.music.duke.edu [accessed 18 May 2016]), which has been publicly accessible since April 2011. The FTCO assigns catalog numbers to all works associated with Frescobaldi, and those numbers are referenced in the works list in Grove Music Online (Frederick Hammond and Alexander Silbiger, "Frescobaldi, Girolamo Alessandro" [rev. 1 July 2014], http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com [accessed 18 May 2016]) and other online resources. The motets of the Liber secundus run from F 11.01 to F 11.31.
Nonetheless, we can greet this new publication only with pleasure, since it makes available in a fine edition an important segment of his work that for too long has lingered in obscurity. 1 will not be surprised if some of these motets soon enter the repertory of singers and vocal ensembles specializing in music of the period. The publication of a "lite" version of the edition, paperbound and easier to hold, with only a brief summary of the introductory material, would no doubt greatly promote the progress of these works from library shelf to performing space. Editors and publisher, please take note!
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||Girolamo Frescobaldi's "Liber secundus diversarum modulationum: Singulis, binis, ternis, quaternisque vocibus (1627)"|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Aug 19, 2016|
|Previous Article:||RILM Music Encyclopedias.|
|Next Article:||Facsimile score for a Disney animated film.|