Fatti sopra diversi soggetti et arie
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Frescobaldi's book of Capricci from 1624 was intended as a continuation of his 1615 book of Ricercari. It was clearly conceived, how ever for the keyboard, an idiom for which this work is a masterpiece, both in regard to contrapuntal technique and to the exceedingly refined art and skill of harpsichord and organ writing. The interdependence of these two books is underlined by their publishing history already beginning with the second edition of the Capricci of 1626. and continuing for the later ones of 1628 and 1642. The first editions of the Ricercari 1615 and 1618 included five canzonas. after which the planned "second book" in actuality took on such particular characteristics that Frescobaldi decided to give the work its own title, that of "Capricci" "In these compositions entitled Capricci I have not kept to as simple a style as in my Ricercari" Once again, by Frescobaldi's own admission in his dedication to the Modenese prince Alfonso d'Este. the guiding hand of Luzzaschi is to be found at the origin of this work: "I owe to Your Highness, as Prince, who from birth has retained from his ancestors the ancient and hereditary (sen ice of protection of the arts, the fruit of these musical labors to which I dedicated myself in my early years under the discipline of Signor Luzzasco. most rare organist and dearest servant of the Most Serene House of Este".
The capriccio will show the way for the toccatas of the Second Book, both in its clear and distinct disposition of divisions and in its use of mensuration, the vestiges of which appear only as a playful juxtaposition between ternary and binary rhythms in the ninth toccata, while being made more evident in the canzonas (particularly the fifth and sixth;. These proportional signs, by this time inappropriate, will thus make way for the explicit indications of "allegro" and "adagio" in the canzonas of 1628 and in the Fiori Musicali. A reversed process from the toccata to the capriccio is to be seen, on the other hand, in the binary conclusion of the triple sections, for example at bar 48 in the Suvini-Zerboni edition; of the Primo Capriccio, at bar 36 of the Terzo Capriccio. and soon. Analogous procedures are also found in the Canzoni of 1628 and in the Fiori Musicali of 1635 (for example at the end of the second section of the Canzon dopo l'Epistola from the Messa delta Domenica.
Even if today a comparative thematic study of the ricercars is lacking, it is certain that the circulation of musical prints allowed for the diffusion of themes and the mutual influence of different styles. Nonetheless, it is legitimate to surmise that it was via Naples that Iberian music (known to Frescobaldi perhaps also during his stylistically mysterious sojourn in Flanders was able to influence the composer's conception of the capriccio. both thematically and in its length, which exceeds that of the ricercar.
In particular, the book by Manuel Rodriguez Coelho, Flores de Musica. published in score in Lisbon in l620. contains precise elements in common with the works of Frescobaldi. It includes various examples of chant with organ the Magnificats . and the title itself recalls the Fiori Musicali of 1635. Moreover, the theme of the IV Tento del quarto tom is quite similar to that of the Capriccio X and the Recercar della Messa della Madonna, both with a fifth obbligato part to be sung. The work is scored for four parts, and includes a series of comments which offer a useful comparison with those by Frescobaldi. Regarding the singing of the obbligato fifth part in the capriccio. this practice is in line with an Iberian tradition which may also be found in
Antonio Ciarreira's Tento com Cantus Firmus a Cinco:Quintaroz de fora "Conque la lavare la flor de la mi cam. not to mention the Verms para se cantarem ao orgao ou Arpa em Tiple ou Tenor. contained in the manuscript 964 in Braga. Still later, in the 18th century. LI. Cassanea de Mondoville published in 1748 in Paris a collection of Pieces de clavecin avec voix ou violon op. 5, in which he declares that the work "interesseroit particulierement ceux qui joignent au talent du Clavecin celui de la voix. puisqu'ils pourront executer seuls ce genre de Musique. Les personnes qui out I' usage de s'acompagner en chantant. auront plus de facilite a remplir mon idee"
One should also not forget that Frescobaldi was himself renowned for his excellent tenor voice, the vocal tessitura in which the fifth parts of the capriccio and ricercar were written. In the case of the Capriccio X. this practice of singing is set clown as obligatory, both in terms of composition and performance. Some doubts surround the recent identification of the fifth part with the melody of Inno Jesu corona Virginum. While the hymn's incipit clearly resembles that of the capriccio. the same is not true for end of the piece, where the two last notes of the Gregorian chant are inverted. The compositional conception of the capriccios and the full adherence to the obbligato tradition, developed as already stated to the point of involving the performer as well, make evident that, as in the case of obbligato parts in the ricercars and capriccios based on solmization notes, the syllable Re placed at the beginning of the fifth part signified the obligatory singing of the solmization notes.
The capriccios seem to rise from an entirely secular context, and although Frescobaldi's numerous references to their polymorphous and multifunctional nature do not exclude the possibility of performance on the organ, the most suitable idiom for these works is the harpsichord, "lord of all the instruments in the world in the words of Trabaci), upon which "one may play all things with ease". That an organist should compose primarily for the harpsichord is not surprising: the title of "organist" is extremely generic, and more etymological than connected with the organ itself. The quantity of organ music, in the modern sense, is quite small when compared to vocal music written by various "organists".
We tend to forget that the organ, as an instrument for study, was until a few decades ago dependent upon the collaboration of someone who could work the bellows, as related in the amusing episode by Costanzo Antegnati in his Arte Organica. Moreover, on the title page of Frescobaldi's books of toccatas appear the words Intarolatura di cimbalo. intended to stress the type of notation employed: keyboard tablature. The prefaces by Frescobaldi never mention a precise destination for these pieces: indeed, they refer to techniques for playing arpeggios on dissonances which seem more idiomatic to a plucked instrument. One speaks (in the Fantasie of the suono de' tasti" sound of the keys . while the articulation of the pieces in the / Libro di Toccate is undoubtedly intended for the harpsichord. In the II Libra di Toccate. in which the instrumental distinction is clearly made, the dedication to Nunzio Gallo, bishop of Ancona and prelate, refers enthusiastically to his talents "del sonar Cravecembalo". "gifted with grace, ease, varietv of measure and charm, conditions necessary" to "the new style" - the true "seconda pratica" of playing the keyboard. Moreover, the Fiori Musicali, which represent the essence and synthesis of the ricercar. capriccio and toccata styles, are described in the advice to the reader as being expressly intend for organists, almost as if in opposition to those works listed immediately before, i.e.. "the prints in tablature and in score of every sort [of] capriccio and invention". Another characteristic which may be significant in determining the instrumental destination of the capriccios is their truly remarkable length, compared to the analogous compositions in the Fiori Musicali the Bassa Fiamenga of the Canzon dopo l'Epistolca, the Bergamasca also based on the Ruggero and the Girolmeta in which the division into sections is much more evident, and indicated as often throughout the other masses) by the words alio modo. These are secular themes linked to the capriccios. and are exceptions within a rigidly sacred context, under whose protective cloak they playfully appear in their role of "divertissements", bearing the clever label of Girolmeta.
The capriccios are difficult to play because they were composed in "different tempos and variations", "in not as simple a style as in my Ricercari'. This difficulty is increased by their being written in score, even though it seems that many have abandoned this practice". Despite the typographical success of the toccatas - "of the greatest delight for not being in score" - the advantages of "contrapuntal" reading led Frescobaldi to insist upon the need for studying scores. His reasons are listed in the preface to the capricios: "polyphonic" reading allows one to resolve certain contrapuntal anomalies through the correct study of the affects, and the "aims of the author regarding the delighting of the ear" and the "way in which one studies in playing". The insistence upon the study of the score is strongly stated in the preface to the Fiori Musicali "I consider it of great importance for players to study scores: for I consider it, for those who so desire, not only [important] to labor in such composition, but necessary, since such a matter almost as a touchstone, distinguishes and makes known the true gold of virtuous actions from those of the ignorant. I need [say] no more, only that experience is the mistress of even thing: may he who wants to advance in this art try and experiment with the truth of what I have said. [and] he will see how he will profit". Modern musicians, so attentive to the recovery of antique performance practices, generally ignore such advice. One of the obstacles encountered by 17th-century performers when playing from score was the imperfection of the part alignment in prints of that time. It is for this reason, according to Grassi. that "they [scores] happen to be quite out of use. since it is necessary for the players to become first good bookkeepers in order to learn to subdivide the value of the notes".
Moving on to examine the formal structure of the capriccio. based as in the toccata on metric variation, one notes that the architectural elaboration of the work is developed in a rhetorical manner, taking its impetus from a solemn preamble which is then developed in accordance with Nunzio Gallo's episcopal "variety of measure". Such variety in the capriccio is laid out by Frescobaldi himself through the use of proportional signs, typical of mensural notation, which are simplified and reduced to a mere indication of movement, and finally abolished in fhe canzonas and in the Fiori Musicali in favor of the explicit markings of Allegro and Adagio. "in the triple or sesquialtera sections, if they are maggiore [in semibreves] they should be played adagio, if minore [in minims] then somewhat more allegro: if there arc three semiminims then [they should be played; more allegro, if they are in 6/4 time their tempo should be given by moving the beat along quickly allegro "To these extremely clear and oversimplified indications, let us add. as already mentioned, the impassive nature of the theme which traverses the numerous variations while remaining identical, albeit altering its affective character appropriately. This is the case of the third Capriccio sopra il Cucco and of those based on obbligato solmization.
The capriccios are undoubtedly Frescobaldi's most demanding and successful works, for they display his virtuosic compositional technique, felicitous invention and mastery of the keyboard. The limited use of these works, compared to others by the Ferrarese composer, was certainly due to their difficulty for both performance and study, activities which had previously been conducted harmonically using tablature.
The employment of the same theme - the hexachord - for the first two capriccios results nonetheless in works of very different character: in the first, the ascending theme creates a solemn and cheerful tension, while the same hexaehord when descending, on the contrary, gives rise to an underlying melancholy. The marvel of the terzo Capriccio. a veritable baroque model for future generations, is found in the obsessive presence in all the sections each organized around its own theme of the obbligato Re Siwhich reiterates the song of the Cuckoo. The second part of the Gregorian chant Kyrie Cunctipotens runs through the Quarto Capriccio with absolutely phantasmagorical inventiveness.
The theme of the fifth capriccio. the Bassa Fiamenga or Tedesca is elaborated with such superb expressive and compositional technique that it should be "required " repertoire for even keyboard player. One may note here in particular the typical structure of the capriccio: a generally solemn and densely contrapuntal first section is followed by various others in triple time to create a rhythmic intensification: these overflow into the practically obligatory chromatic section which forms the real adagio at the core of the composition: finally a solemn close, or a densely rhythmic one with at times an augmented presentation of the theme, concludes the work. This rhetorical structure elaborated by Frescobaldi is modelled on the madrigal, whose poetic form is generally built upon a syllogism contained in a single phrase, the close of which is typically in rhyming couplets. Such an ending is exemplified in the ottava. it too a closed form dealing with epicchivalric subjects, the rhetorical code of which has been adapted to amorous topics. In this sense the closed form itself is the "madrigalistic" representation of "sealing the couplet with a kiss".
At times the basic theme of the capriccio is developed horizontally, as in the case of the Spagnoletta. where the twice repeated presentation of the theme in its entirety permeates and characterizes the various sections, dividing the composition itself into two parrs.
The failure of the seventh capriccio to measure up to the standard set by the other works in the col lection, as well as its toccatalike and gallant character, led to its elimination from the two subsequent editions and its reappearing in an altered form as the Aria delta Balletto in the Secondo Libro di Toccate.
The modern character of the Capriccio ottaro with its contrary suspensions is so astonishing that only a thorough study will shed light on its greatness. This work was born of the Neapolitan penchant for the virtuoso style marked by durezze e legature (dissonances and suspensions found in the following capriccio.
In addition to that which has already been said about the Capriccio X. one may note the expressive intensification resulting from the three successive sections in triple time which overflow into the broad conclusion. Here again the form of the capriccio found in the Bassa Fiamenga is completely recaptured: the solemn opening leading in various steps to the chromatic central section from winch the final impetus is released.
A striking element in the Capriccio sopra un soggetto eleventh in the first edition, ninth in the two later ones. is its strong link to the canzon francese. made evident among other tilings by the triple meter of the second episode. This genre is at the heart of all the "Frescobaldian" fugues found in the various 17th-century tablatures. not to mention the innumerable attributions in eighteenth - and nineteenth - century anthologies of organ music. The final section of this work with its augmentation of the theme is extraordinary.
The last capriccio is a magnificent example of thematic "inadrigalization". Its theme, based on an incipit by Ariosto from the canto XLIV of Orlando Farioso. is the socalled Ruggero in which Bradamante decalres her loyally to the paladin. Frescobaldi repeats the two initial verses with melodic variations; Rugger, qualsempre fui tal esser roglio/sino alla morte e pit) se piu si puote "Ruggero. that which I always was I want to be / until death and more, if more were possible";. The opening section is divided into two parts. In the first section bars 1-14 in the Suvini-Zerboni edition . the first verse is itself divided in two halves: "Rugger qual sempre fui" solemnly affirmative, contrasts with "a tal esser voglio". reassuringly affectionate. The second part bars 18-35 also subdivides the verse: "fino alla morte" with its repeated notes is accompanied contrapuntally by a continuous stream of eighth notes intended to signify the eternity of the sentiment expressed in the solemn declaration "se piu si puote".
The following section in tripla maggiore (3/1) solemnly comments in part on the exposition of the thematic characters, repeating the "eternal gravity of the vow in the second verse. Within the framework of Frescobaldi's capriccio this meter plays an analogous role in the Primo and Terzo Capriccio. and is indeed employed in the latter work in the same place, i.e.. the second section. The second part of the capriccio begins with an episode in which the entire twoline verse is cited twice bars 48-50 and 50-64 . with the except ion of the last haif-line. "se piu si puote". which finally enters at bar 6l to dispel any remaining doubts of the paladin. Here. too. a triple section follows, this time minore (3/2. bars 65-77). based on an echo of "tal esser voglio". leading (bars 78-86) into an extremely expressive intensification of the three phrases, "talesser roglio". "sinoalla morte". and "se piu si puote" imbedded to great effect in the style of a madrigal. "Sino alla morte" is followed five times by the affirmation "tal esser voglio" with a wonderfully effective inversion of the text : the repetition in the bass of "sino alla morte" bars 80-81 is twice followed by "tal esser voglio". The soprano lakes up "sino alia morte". which intertwines with the alto's "talesser voglio" and together the soprano and bass conclude with "se piu si puote". At bar 82 the tenor restarts the dialogue with "sino alla morte". followed
by "tal esser" in the soprano, intertwining with the alto. There follow the tenor with "se piu si puote" the bass with two repetitions of "tal esser" (bars 83 and 84)fi. and the soprano with "se piu si puote". but these last utterances are veritable "deceptions", or rather false entrances. In bar 84 the alto proclaims her "sino alla morte", followed by "tal esser voglio" by the tenor, finally concluding with the bass's "se piu si puote" with a small echo of "tal esser voglio" by the soprano.
The epic continues with a third part in which the first section (bars 87-111) presents the theme in its entirety in the various voices, first from bars 87-98. and then again with the text "sino all morte" "se piu si puote" from bar 111.
All of this is accompanied by a bouncing countersubject. In the central chromatic section (bars 112-132) . sweet and affectionate, the phrase "Rugger qual sempre fui" is sung five times, overflowing into the fourth and last part of the cycle which concludes with a heroic and knightly intensification of the counterpoint. The first section (bars 132-151) presents a true "ride on horseback" of the two heroknight-lovers. Ruggero and Bradaniante. who repeat the second verse to each other as they ride off into the sunset- while the "Ruggier" was already amply featured in the chromatic love scene. The last section bars 152 to the end: prolong into eternity the last verse (by means of the ascending and descending scales), w ith a final reiteration (bars 155-158 and 160 to the end) of "se piu si puote".
-Sergio Vartolo (translation: Candace Smith)