John Collins - Organist, Harpsichordist Iberian Musicologist, Translator

Donato Cimino.

Title: Donato Cimino: Toccate per organo di varj Autori

Editor: Jolanda Scarpa

Publisher: : Edition Walhall in four volumes.

Price:EW767, 772 18.50 Euros each, EW775 21.5 Euros, EW778 19.8 Euros

Reviewed by John Collins

The contents of the MS compiled by Donato Cimino and dated 1675 is held at the Biblioteca del Conservatorio in Naples, and is being published in this new edition in 4 volumes. In addition to pieces quite possibly composed by Cimino himself (although since Cimino was known to be a copyist for Giovanni Salvatore, some scholars suggest that the unsigned pieces in the MS were by Salvatore himself), it includes pieces by the Romans Ercole Pasquini and Frescobaldi, and de Macque and Salvatore who were active in Naples, as well as other composers who are scarcely known at all today even to specialists. This first volume contains 20 pieces, comprising three Toccatas, a Fantasia, two Ricercare, two Fugas and 12 Canzonas. The third Toccata is very similar to Frescobaldi’s Toccata Quinta from his 2nd book of Toccatas, and the other two Toccatas exhibit all the hallmarks of his style, with semiquaver runs in parallel and contrary motion. The Fantasia, only 21 bars of 4/2 moves in crotchets, the first Fuga is only 14 bars with semiquaver motion, the subject of the second one opening in 3/2 and then moving into C time has a distinct resemblance to the subject of the first Fuga, possibly the piece could be regarded as a variation Canzona in the manner of Froberger. The Ricercar Crom. (sic) has echoes of Froberger in its use of both major and minor thirds to create tonal ambiguity; three triple time sections enclosed by C time sections make a satisfying unity.

The Ricercata sop. A Gsolreut, a more homophonic work than the other ricercar in the volume, is presented in its original white notation (3/2) which is easily followed after a little practice, the unusual homophonic final section opens with a one-bar phrase repeated on ascending degrees of the scale from tenor F to treble C where there is a heading referring to the Nativity; after a further ascent to treble A♭ the phrase sinks back to tenor F and a short coda. A few of the Canzonas are very short but display varying degrees of contrapuntal writing, mixed with Toccata-like passages. Rather longer is the Canzona on the 8th Tone, its two triple time sections (one in 3/4, the other in 6/4 but beamed in 12/8 , although both have irregular length bars) being separated by a two-bat Toccata-like interlude, with a written-out trill in the alto. Here the Frescobaldian influence is most notable. Most of the other Canzonas also include a triple time section. The dactylic rhythm occurs less frequently here, mainly in the shorter examples, but repeated notes are still prevalent.

The second volume contains 18 pieces all of which have titles ranging from one or two words (such as Pace, Farfalla, Fedeltà, Patienza) to longer, proverb-like expressions. The pieces are all fairly brief, written in one section; most have a short subject that is treated imitatively and provides a rhythmic impetus that dominates the work (canzona-like dactyls are frequently employed). The original white-note notation is retained here for the two pieces in triple time, “ Chi dura vince… ” and “ Aspettar di goder… ” the remaining pieces being in C time. It is difficult to know in which circumstances these pieces may have been performed, but their charm remains fresh and, being less demanding than many of the pieces by the likes of Storace, will provide pleasant recreation.

The third volume contains 27 pieces, several of which are ascribed to composers, the collected keyboard works of most of whom (Giovanni Salvatore, Ercole Pasquini and de Macque) are available in modern editions. The opening three pieces are attributed to the otherwise unknown Francesco Boerio; they comprise an untitled piece, and a Toccata that owes much to the early 17th century models by Ercole Pasquini, and the Neapolitans Trabaci and Mayone (who each published two volumes of keyboard pieces between 1603 and 1615) that is followed by a Fuga that is only loosely imitative. It is possible that the following four short versos, and four Ricercares may also be by Boerio, the first two Ricercares are short and quite lively, the third exploits the falling diminished seventh in its first section, the triple time section being devoted to a new subject. The fourth one is based on a short subject that gives way to an insistent motif before a toccata-like coda. Two Toccatas and a Capriccio by Salvatore follow, the latter marked malinconico e largo. Two Canzonas by Frescobaldi that, to the best of my knowledge, are not known from other collections, offer substantial fare, with triple-time sections. The first one is introduced by a seven-bar chordal section, which feature is not present in any of his published Canzonas for keyboard. A Durezze by Salvatore is followed by two similar pieces by de Macque and two Capricci and a Canzona, also by de Macque. Two Corrente by Salvatore are the only dance pieces in the collection. A Canzona by the otherwise unknown Giacinto Ansalone opens in the usual contrapuntal development of a dactylic figure, but at bar 30 this dissolves into Toccata-like figuration, with a development based on a rhythmic motif being inserted in bars 52-66 before a short Toccata-like coda. This is followed by a Durezze, possibly also by Ansalone, which differs from the others in this volume through having a more animated section in bars 13-16. A Canzona with a triple-time central section and a Durezze, both by Ercole Pasquini, and an untitled piece, ostensibly a Ricercar, close this volume. Most of these pieces are on the short side, few exceeding 60 bars.

The fourth volume contains three Organ Masses, with the usual Kyrie, Gloria, Epistle, Offertory, Elevation, Agnus Dei and Postcommunion, although not every element appears in each Mass. After a Toccata-like Introito per le feste doppie we find mainly short versos in various forms including canzona-like, chordal and toccata-like. The first and third Masses contain a Toccata per l’Offertorio (both with fugas) and the first and second include an Elevazione, the first one being in the rare key of F minor which must have sounded very interesting in meantone, although without any of the extreme dissonances found in the pieces in the third volume. Other pieces include Canzona-like Doppo l’Epistola in the first , and the 1st Kyrie of the third Mass offers a mixture of toccata figuration, short rhythmic figures and a chordal coda. The collection concludes with an exciting Toccata which offered several challenges in the provision of an accurate transcription from the MS, a facsimile shows the extent of some of these.

These pieces offer a fascinating glimpse into what was being played in Naples in the late 17th century, the edition is clearly printed with six systems to the page, and has a useful introduction in English,; also included is a description of the 17th century Neapolitan organ, although the pitches given in English are inaccurate. Editorial amendments are noted in the body of the scores. This collection will offer much to the player prepared to look beyond the notes; there are several pieces where the player must exercise his or her own judgement in adding accidentals and in a few cases deciding whether the text offered here needs amendment by a tone or a third. The third volume will probably be more useful to those players who may not have the opportunities to integrate the versos and Mass settings into the liturgy at their church, the highly dissonant and moving Durezze and Consonanze with their abrupt modulations to the remotest keys still sound highly effective during the Communion today. The great majority of pieces also sound well on harpsichord and clavichord. The toccatas will offer challenges to even the player experienced in this repertoire, and some of the canzonas require some care when shifting hand positions, but there are many pieces that are not overtaxing. A read through the registration suggestions from contemporary sources (many available in good modern translations in anthologies) will enable the player to select an appropriately light and transparent registration on modern instruments to bring these pieces alive. Several Italian MSS are available in facsimile editions, but reading these will offer major problems to many players; it is to be hoped that Jolando Scarpa will be able to offer more of these in critical modern editions in the future.

Back to Reviews

© John Collins 2013