John Collins - Organist, Harpsichordist Iberian Musicologist, Translator

Antonio Croci: Frutti Musicali

Title:Antonio Croci: Frutti Musicali

Editor: Jörg Jacobi. .

Publisher: Edition Baroque eba4044

Reviewed by John Collins

Antoni Croci , probably born in the 1590s in Modena, was organist at various churches in Bologna where he died sometime after 1642. Most of his published works are pedagogical or theoretical, but in 1642 he published a small volume in Venice, Frutti Musicali di messe tre ecclesiastiche, op.4, which is now available for the first time in a modern edition. As with all post-Frescobaldi composers of liturgical material, the basic influence of the Fiori Musicali of 1635 is clear. This volume presents three organ masses, opening with the Messa per li Puti, followed by a grouping of five Canzone and a Ricercar Cromatico. There follow the Missa Domenica and the Missa Doppia and the collection concludes with a further three Ricercari Cromatichi.

The preface informs us that the first Mass (the word Puti is an old Italian word for children) was written for those who cannot stretch an octave, and the opening Toccata per l’Introito (a piece based on quaver scale passages over 1-5-8 chords in the manner of Hassler and Erbach) carries the inscription that the final notes are to be played on the pedals by those who are able to. The Kirie is followed by a short, slow Toccata per la Gloria followed by the versets, a further slow Toccata per il Sanctus, Pleni and Agnus. The Missa Domenica opens with a short Introit with some semiquaver scalar passagework covering two octaves, followed by the Kyries, the last of which has further extensive quaver scalar passages, a group of nine versets commencing with Et in terra pax and finishing with the Amen, followed by a brief Ricercare dopo l’Epistola before the Sanctus and Agnus. The Missa Doppia commences with an Introit with semiquaver figuration, Kyries, a Toccata del Quarto Tono avanti’l Gloria which soon lapses into fuguration, eight short versets commencing with Laudamos te and finishing with the Amen. There follows a mainly chordal Toccata del Quarto Tono per il Credo followed by seven versets of which the Et expecto in 3/1 is the only verset in the entire collection in triple time, and an Amen. The Sanctus, Pleni and Agnus Dei conclude the versets.

Of the five Canzone, two are written for “those who cannot stretch an octave ” and all contain much writing in two voices only, especially in the triple time sections – the final two are in two voices throughout. There are a few outbursts of semiquaver divisions. The following brief Ricercar Cromatico is also headed for those who cannotstretch an octave, and moves mainly in minims. Of the three chromatic Ricercars which conclude the volume the first two are based on the chromatic tetrachord, the first piece treating the descending, the second the ascending form, while the final Ricercar explores the chromatic third and contains far more crotchet movement before a quaver coda.

All of the versets are relatively short, averaging around 7-8 breve bars, and are either imitative, or homophonic toccata-like pieces in which the lh comprises fifths – parallels are frequent. Occasionally there are extended passages of figuration which will require greater effort from the player (for example the Cum Sancto Spiritu Amen in the 1st Mass, the Amen and Agnus Dei in the Missa Domenica). The three concluding Ricercars offer somewhat higher quality music and the first two could possibly serve as Elevazione, a genre noticeably absent here) but overall these pieces do not approach the quality of the versets in the Masses published in 1645 by Giovanni Fasolo (see review of the new edition of this print in The Diapason Feb 2013) and the didactic purpose of this collection is quite evident; it is probable that the children in the Cappele Musicale of the time were taught the rudiments of organ playing as well as singing and music theory.

This clearly printed edition (as usual from this publisher it is without an English translation of the introduction which includes Croci’s preface and also a summary of Banchieri’s rules on the use of the organ in the Liturgy included in his Organo suonario of 1605) adds to our knowledge of the post-Frescobaldian publications and enables us to develop a broader picture of the Italian organ music that was being performed towards the midpoint of the 17th century. It will be necessary in some places to consider addition of accidentals in accordance with musica ficta. Possibly more for the specialist, but the brief versets could still be very useful in the service where a short piece is required to fill in gaps.

Back to Reviews

© John Collins 2015