John Collins - Organist, Harpsichordist Iberian Musicologist, Translator

Giovanni Fasolo: Annuale 5 volumes

Title:Giovanni Fasolo: Annuale 5 volumes.

EditorJörg Jacobi

Publisher: Edition Baroque eba4029-3

Price:Vols 1-2: 14.50 Euros, vol 3: 14 Euros and 4-5: 13.50 Euros each, or 59 Euros the set .

Reviewed by John Collins

Giovanni Fasolo, a Franciscan monk who was born in Asti (between Turin and Genova) ca.1598 and later became choir master at Monreale, near Palermo, Sicily, published a substantial collection of pieces in Venice in 1645 that was clearly based on Frescobaldi’s Fiori musicali of 1635; it contains verses for the Te Deum, a collection of hymns for the church year, 3 Organ Masses, verses for 8 Magnificats and the Salve Regina as well as 8 Ricercars, 8 Canzonas and 4 Fugues. The new edition from Edition Baroque comprises five volumes.

Volume one contains fifteen short, imitative verses for the Te Deum (it is probable that the editor has omitted the sharp before the C in the final chord of those verses that end on A), and 23 hymn settings. The hymn settings were intended to give the organist a compendium that covered the liturgical year and comprise either three or four short verses each; the Pange Lingua, Proels de Coelo has five. In several of them, in allusion to the Trinity, the final verse is in three voices, frequently in triple time, and it sometimes carries the comment that the soprano is to be played with the right hand, an octave higher, the other two parts with the left hand, which requires some dexterity. Some of the hymns have an alternative set of verses marked più facile, più moderni or più allegri, which are indeed lighter in style. All of the verses are short, nowhere approaching the scale of the settings by Titelouze or Hieronymous Praetorius, because of this they could well be most useful to the organist today who needs short pieces during the liturgy.

Volume two presents three organ masses, quite rare in southern Italian sources (Giovanni Salvatore also included three in his publication of 1641). They include the Missa in Dominicus Diebus, Missa in Duplicibus Diebus and Missa Beatae Maria Virgine. Each comprises nine pieces, Kyrie (four verses, with an Alleluya in the Duplicibus Diebus), Gloria (nine verses), Post Epistle, Offertory, Sanctus (two verses), Benedictus and Elevation, Agnus Dei, Post Agnus and Deo Gratis, which is a repeat of the first Kyrie. Most of the verses for the Kyrie, Gloria and Sanctus and Agnus Dei are short and imitative, with occasional forays into semiquaver figures. The fifth verse of the Gloria in Duplicibus Diebus is a rare exception of exuberance. The Elevazione are very slow chordal pieces similar to durezze and ligature, far closer to Ercole Pasquini and de Macque than to Frescobaldi’s Toccatas. The Post Epistle pieces are more substantial, particularly the Duplicibus Diebus, which has a central triple time section; the example in the Beatae Maria Virgine is in two sections. The Offertories are marked Gravis and are much weightier pieces, the one for Dominicus Diebus has a triple time central section. The Post Agnus pieces are all considerably more lively, the one in the Beatae Maria Virgine being an extended work, again with a triple time central section. These settings are very different to the extended and highly ornamented ones by Merulo and Andrea Gabrieli, nd probably reflect the change in style and fashion some 60 years on.

Volume three includes the settings of the Magnificat for the eight tones (those on the fifth tone are transposed down a fourth) and of the Salve Regina. The Magnificats comprise six verses, which range from 10-ca 25 bars (apart from the eighth tone which has only four) and a longer Post Magnificat which replaces the concluding antiphon; that on the fifth tone is untransposed. The final verse of the first tone is headed Gloria Patri. The verses are mainly imitative, with those on the fifth and seventh tones being in longer note values. The third verse on the second tone is based on the descending chromatic tetrachord (ie proceeding by semitone steps from G to D in the opening statement) and the sixth verse makes use of the figure known as chiasmus from its falling diminished fourth. There are five verses on the Salve Regina, the first three moving mainly in minims and crotchets, but the fourth and fifth are more lively, with quaver passagework.

The final two volumes contain the contrapuntal works, which comprise eight Ricercate and eight Canzone (on each of the eight Tones, although in the Canzone nos. 2, and 5 have been transposed and no. 3 mixes the third and fourth) and four fugas. Volume four offers the eight Ricercate and the first four Canzone, with the remaining four Canzone and the Fugas in volume five. The opening Ricercata is based on the descending chromatic tetrachord, one of the popular themes of the late 16th and the 17th centuries, the others on abstract themes. Each canzona opens with the typical dactylic rhythms, apart from no. four which has a chordal quasi preludial opening. Apart from nos. two, three and eight, they contain a central triple time section in which the theme is varied rhythmically; as with the canzone in Frescobaldi’s second book of Toccatas there are transitional toccata-like passages. Number two is in three sections, each of which is marked to be repeated. The preface tells us that these pieces may be played in the place of the antiphon, offertory or gradual during the service. The four fugues are based on the Bergamasca, Girolmeta (both used ten years previously by Frescobaldi in his Fiori Musicali), Bassa Fiamenga (a very popular theme in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, used by Frescobaldi in his Libro di Capricci of 1624 and as basis for a set of variations by Scheidt) and the ascending hexachord (ie the major scale from C to A). The collection of fugues by Johann Klemm of 1631 also concludes with this popular theme. The first fugue is more akin to a Capriccio or Canzona, being the only one with a triple-time section. All of the contrapuntal works reveal a high standard of craftsmanship and are exceptionally rewarding to play.

The printing is well laid out and clear in the first three volumes which contain up to six systems per page, but in the fourth and fifth volumes the font size is decreased somewhat to squeeze in seven systems, which makes it less comfortable and causes problems in reading, especially when there is only a slight gap between notes in different parts. A big plus is the insertion of blank pages to eliminate page turns in the middle of a piece. For the English player the big drawback is the non-translation into English of Fasolo’s lengthy and most informative preface, which gives much invaluable information on performance practice; it is given in the original Italian and with a parallel German text. The quality of the music is generally high and should give much pleasure to the player.

Whilst the pieces do not attain the standard of Frescobaldi, this rare example of a southern Italian print of such a liturgical scope still contains pieces of a high standard. Despite their relative brevity, in addition to the contrapuntal works, several of the verses will require careful practice when inner parts have to be passed between the hands; they display a wide variety in their miniature scale, and merit exploration by today’s players. For those organists who may not have the opportunity to use the verses during the liturgy, although many of them would be of value for filling short gaps, the fourth and fifth volumes will be of greatest interest; a generous discount is available to those who wish to purchase the complete set of five volumes. All the pieces are capable of execution on manuals only, which will also enhance their appeal to harpsichordists and clavichordists.

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© John Collins 2013