John Collins - Organist, Harpsichordist Iberian Musicologist, Translator

Catena sammlung: Mus. Ms. Landsberg 122 - Berlin

Title:Catena sammlung: Mus. Ms. Landsberg 122 - Berlin

Editor:Jolando Scarpa

Publisher: : Edition Walhall EW919 & 922 - 21.80 Euros and 17.50 Euros respectively.

Reviewed by John Collins

With these two volumes Jolando Scarpa continues to provide modern editions of important 17th century Italian MSS which contain keyboard music. They include the previously unpublished pieces contained in MS Landsberg 122, Berlin, compiled by Giovanni Battista Catena around the middle of the 17th century; it offers an overview of the different compositional genres encountered in Rome at this time, with the majority being, as one would expect, Versetti for use in the Liturgy. The contents of this modern edition include three pieces ascribed to Frescobaldi which are not known from other sources, either published or in MSS; the 1st two pieces opening volume 1 are Elevazione, in a style very different from the two floridly embellished Toccatas included in his second book of Toccatas, consisting of slow chordally based durezze e ligature in the style of Ercole Pasquini’s few surviving examples. The first piece contains some passages with the treble minims ascending by semitones, and from bar 29 the bass quickens to quaver movement before semiquaver passagi enliven the final three bars. The second piece moves almost entirely in minims, again with progressions by semitone this time in all parts. In volume II there is a piece simply entitled Frescobaldi, which is a Corrente, again not known from his publications.

The two Elevazione attributed to Frescobaldi are followed by two pieces attributed to Orazio Tarditi (1602-77), who was a member of the Roman school; a further Elevazione which is also in the earlier chordal style, but with several bars of crotchets against semibreves is followed by a Toccata which consists primarily of semiquaver figuration against semibreves or minims, which leads to a Fuga, a loosely imitative few bars which soon lapses into toccata-like writing. This work with its sequential figures based on short motifs bears close resemblance to Bernardo Pasquini’s toccatas and also to Frescobaldi’s MS Toccatas, far removed from his published examples.

The rest of the contents of the first volume is anonymous and in addition to two incomplete pieces on pp.30-32 (one piece, toccata-like, without heading on p.30 is a short 20 bar piece seems complete), comprises a Fantasia, a 35 bar mainly imitative work on the 6th Tone, eight Canzonas (one of which is incomplete), a Toccata similar to Tarditi’s followed by a Ricercar that opens in a canzona rhythm which is then presented in diminution followed by a triple time section which leads into a 3-bar toccata-like coda, a set of four Versetti sull’ Inno Veni Creator (the first of which is a very short toccata, the second is chordal and the other two are imitative), a short Toccata per la Gloria in Excelsis, sette (seven) Versetti per il Sanctus, the first six being imitative, the final one being marked Adagio col Tremolo, a very rare indication, followed by a concluding chordal Amen., two individual Versetti on the 6th Tone and some nine sets of Versetti on various Tones, ranging from three to six in the set. Those headed del VII Tono are actually in C, not in D so perhaps the editorial title is incorrect. Most of the Versetti are imitative and rarely exceed 10 breve bars (the numeration includes some semibreve bars as well), although the fourth and fifth Versetti on the 1st Tone run to over 30 bars. Most subjects are in longer note values, but a few move in quavers and exhibit a livelier sense of movement.

The Canzonas (all but two presumably untitled in MS as the title in the volume is in brackets) are in the main fairly short one-section pieces with various opening rhythms, the one on p36 opens with a five note ornamental figure similar to Santa Maria’s redoble; the concluding triple time section works new material. The next piece in this volume is a rare example of a piece in D with two sharps in the key signature – a rather earlier example is by Sperindio Bertoldo. The Canzone on p.45 concludes with a triple-time section, the subject of which is loosely derived from the opening material, before a concluding coda.

Volume II contains a further 28 pieces, most of which are untitled in the MS and have been given tentative titles by the editor, and opens with a Fantasia dopo l’Epistola in three sections, outer movements in C time in a Canzona rhythm enclosing a triple time section in C3, the first two of the six beats being a dotted crotchet-quaver. This is followed by a Toccata-like piece not dissimilar to some of those found in the Vatican MSS. Three contrapuntal Versetti on the 1st Tone are followed by a more substantial Canzone with plenty of quaver work against minims as the piece progresses. Five shorter Canzone follow, of which only the second one has a triple time central section; the third and fifth conclude with Toccata-like passages which also occur in a few Canzone in the Cimino MS. There follow four Versetti, one on the 1st Tone and three on the 4th Tone.; all have Canzona rhythms, the final two in smaller note-values. A further imitative piece entitled Canzone by the editor has a subject on equal quavers, followed by two more Versetti on the 5th Tone. Two far more substantial pieces in the 1st Tone follow, a piece the editor has, rightly, entitled Toccata which opens with quaver arpeggio flourishes before settling into scalar semiquavers over held octaves and two-voice passages before a winding down single-note broken arpeggio. This is followed by a majestic Passacalli based on the descending tetrachord, which progresses through figuration and rhythmic motifs before a harmonically exciting conclusion. Of the following three Versetti on the 6th Tone, the second is homophonic and the third is in 3/2 with a dotted rhythm to the subject. A short imitative untitled piece is followed by three pieces entitled Canzone by the editor, which are imitative although not in the expected rhythms, the subject of the final one being similar but in a different rhythm to an earlier Versetto on the 1st Tone. Two imitative Versetti on the 1st Tone are then followed by a Canzone, the subject of which includes both the sharpened and natural seventh; in the final bar the three voices of the rh telescope into one. The next piece is entitled Spagnola in the MS, its dactylic rhythm showing its genesis in a Canzona; it has nothing in common with the pieces entitled Spagnoletta by Frescobaldi or Storace. The following untitled piece and the next Canzone are short imitative pieces, after which comes the Corrente entitled Frescobaldi. An imitative piece entitled Canzone opens with three repeated quaver Ds, the piece concluding with a short flourish, the closing piece in the collection being entitled Veretto by the editor, consisting of short motifs in two voices before lh. octaves in the final two bars.

The preface concentrates on the comments made by Bartolomeo Grassi in the Partitura del primo Libro dello Canzoni of 1628 about Frescobaldi having many MSS of pieces ready for publication - many pieces remained in MSS which are now in various libraries in Europe, the authenticity of these being a subject still causing much disagreement amongst eminent scholars. The introduction advises that some compositions including Canzoni, a Toccata, Hymns and a Magnificat are already available in modern editions but it would have been helpful if fuller details had been provided; also helpful would have been confirmation that the order of the pieces in the new edition follows the order of the MS. The printing is clear in a generously sized font, with six systems to the page. There is no critical commentary as such, editorial corrections being marked in the score, although several missing accidentals will need to be marked, and there are a few passages still remaining which are open to conjecture, and, in one or two cases seem to be quite incorrect – an example is the lh of the "Canzona" in bars 5 and 11 commencing on p33 of volume I. Several Versetti finish with a chord containing the fifth but no third, - given that the majority conclude with either a full chord or a bare octave, today’s player may well be entitled to some licence in such matters. The first system of the lh of the the Canzona in D on p.39 of Volume I is in the bass clef, necessitating multiple leger lines as the notes ascend to treble D, surely a treble clef would have made reading far easier. The distribution of the notes between the hands in the original tablature has been maintained, although this does not offer clarity in voice leading.

The volume is a welcome addition in modern notation to the relatively scarce material from the post-Frescobaldi period in Rome in particular and Italy in general; none of the pieces has an obligato pedal part, and are still suitable for such use today, in addition to offering recreation, and good teaching material.

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© John Collins 2015