L’organo a Firenze dai Medici all’Unità d’Italia

L’organo a Firenze dai Medici all’Unità d’Italia
Gabriele Giacomelli
Tactus TC 860002. 79’03

This CD has been issued in celebration of the brief period, 150 years ago, when Florence was declared the capital of the Kingdom of Italy. Using the two historic organs in the San Lorenzo basilica, it covers the period from the time of the Medici family (who built San Lorenzo as their parish church and eventual mausoleum) to the Unification of Italy. The first half is played on a small Renaissance period organ, tuned in quarter-comma meantone, with pipework dating back to the 1450s, restored by Tronci in 1773. The repertoire played on this organ is fascinating, not least in not being the usual Italian Renaissance organ repertoire. Focussing on musicians with links to Florence, it starts with the lute piece Palle palle by Isaac, a singer in the San Lorenzo choir, the title ‘Balls, balls’ referring to the heraldic symbol of the Medici family, with its six balls. As if to reinforce its secular nature, it includes the sound of the drum pedal.

Subsequent pieces include keyboard transcriptions of secular vocal pieces written for the Intermedi della Pellegrina celebrating a Medici wedding, including O che nuovo miracolo by Emilio de’ Cavalieri, a piece that became well-known throughout Europe as the Ballo del Garnduca¸or Aria di Fiorenza. After three pieces by Frescobaldi, there is an impressive Passagagli once thought to have been composed by the Grand Prince Ferdinando de’Medici, a patron of many musicians, but unlikely to have had sufficient musical skill to composer such an advanced piece. A pupil to pupil chain then leads to 18th century and the most recent pieces played on the small organ, by Francesco Faroci. This includes his bucolic Pastorale meza bigia fatta apposta per la Gigia, a curious xxx

Some would argue that we then move from the sublime to the ridiculous. The large organ built by Fratelli Serassi in 1864 has more than 60 registers and three keyboards, and is firmly in the Italian romantic tradition. The opening Sonata per l’organo a cilindro situato nel Tempio della Notte del giardno di Schőnau presso Vienna, by Cherubini is fairly innocuous. This was written in 1805 for the same barrel-powered organ that Mozart composed for.  The following pieces explore the little-known organ music of 19th century Italy and might surprise some listeners used to traditional service-based organ music. It includes six anonymous and unpublished pieces found in the archives of the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, showing some affinity with the organ music of revolutionary France and the likes of Balbastre and Lefebure-Wely. All great fun!

Gabriele Giacomelli has an affinity with this repertoire, and clearly enjoys playing it.

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