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Recorded at Crema, Chiesa di San Bernardino, Italy in April 2002
Conceived, recorded and produced by Giulio Cesare Ricci
Recording assistant: Paola Maria Ricci
Sylva Pozzer soprano
Simonetta Cavalli mezzosoprano
Vincenzo Di Donato tenore
Garrick Comeaux basso
Monica pelliciari, Elisa Imbalzano violini
Daniele Cernuto violoncello
Pietro Prosser tiorba
Excerpted Booklet Notes:
Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676): Concerted Sacred Music
'In a falling age he makes that palace shine with his virtues.'
Francesco Cavalli (Pier Francesco Caletti-Bruni, called Cavalli, 1602-1676) was born in Crema where he was first taught by his father, a musician at the local cathedral. Musically gifted and with a beautiful voice, the boy was noticed by the Venetian governor of Crema, Federico Cavalli - after whom he was later named - who, in 1616, invited him to further his studies in Venice. In this city, which was musically dominated by the figure of Claudio Monteverdi, maestro di cappella at Saint Mark's cathedral and also an indisputable model for operatic music, Cavalli began a long and fortunate career. He was probably the pupil and therefore the subsequent successor of the same Monteverdi both as the leader of St Mark's cathedral and in the Venetian operatic school. He remained until the last years of his life an acclaimed master in the golden lagoon city ('in a falling age he makes that palace shine with his virtues.' B. Ferrari, 1676), even though to his operas, which had brought him fame all the way to the challenging French stages, were gradually preferred those of younger composers. His sacred music, with the exception of a few pieces, is little known and performed nowadays in comparison with his opera production. Yet, as the successor of Monteverdi, he lived andworked in one of themost important centres for sacred music of his time, where the same Monteverdi had composed some of hismasterpieces in this genre.
Between Church and Theatre
With the exception of his sojourn in Paris between 1660 and 1662, and perhaps of occasional short periods spent in the Italian cities where his melodramas were staged, Cavalli firmly kept his professional basis in Venice and in its numerous theatres and churches. Initially, in addition to being a singer at St. Mark's, he was also organist at St. John's and Paul's. He also freely gave his services as organist and organiser (or conductor) of music on the occasion of various festivities and in other churches (St Rocco's School, Church of the Holy Spirit, St. Catherine's).
His professional career, as that of Monteverdi and of many composers of the time, was therefore connected to sacred music institutions. In fact, his name first appeared in the prints of his time as the composer of a motet for solo voice in the Maestro's style ("Cantate Domino", 1625). In the decade between 1640-1650 he established himself in the Venitian theatres with numerous operas, and while these, for reasons connected with the production system, circulated essentially in manuscript, Cavalli published a few isolated (but equally representative of his status) examples of sacred compositions (always in anthologies "Quam suavis", 1645; "Magnificat", 1650; "In virtute tua", "O bone Jesu", "Plaudite cantata", 1656). In 1639 he won the post as second organist at St. Mark's and, although the first organist was the less paid Massimiliano Neri, from then on Cavalli was acclaimed by visitors as a composer and a singer with no equals in Italy, and was compared to Frescobaldi as an organist, even though it was not possible to hear him play very frequently. In 1665 his engagement as first organist was finally sanctioned. Already a decade earlier, however, he had reluctantly published his first imposing sacred monograph, the "Musiche sacre concernenti messa, e salmi concertati con istromenti..." (Sacred music concerning mass, and concerted psalms with instruments) (Venice 1656). Dedicated to Cardinal Gian Carlo de' Medici - the same Florentine prelate for whom he had composed in 1654 the opera "Hipermestra" and other pieces - it presents the author as <<organist of the Serenissima St. Mark's Republic>>. The work contains the main forms of the musical-liturgical praxis: from the mass to the vespers psalms and the magnificats in the solemn concerted form at double choir with instruments and solo voices, to the more contained but no less musically accurate hymns, Marian antiphons and psalms, with choir reduced to solo voices (from 2 to 5 voices), with or without violins and basso continuo; there is also a series of interesting instrumental sonatas from 3 to 12 parts. Cavalli's sacred production continued also in the following decades, and circulated both in prints ("Vesperi a doppio coro", 1675) and in manuscript ("Missa pro defunctis"). It therefore accompanied the career of the composer, who had already confirmed his dominant position in the months preceding his departure from Paris (1660) with the performance of a "Te Deum" composed by him at St John's and Paul's, and who, in the last years of his life, with his definitive appointment as maestro di cappella (1668), finally concentrated his attention on this very genre, with particular consideration of the ancient Venetian liturgical ("Vesperi delli cinque laudate" for the rite of the Pala d'ore) and a technical-musical (double choir) traditions. The last, meaningful testimony of this by no means secondary commitment - although in the course of his career it was shadowed by his fame as an opera composer - was the "Requiem", which Cavalli wanted to be performed at his own funeral. Many sacred compositions that remained in manuscript, which are now unfortunately lost, were listed in an inventory of the cathedral library compiled in 1720.