Amadio Freddi: Vespers (1616)

Amadio Freddi: Vespers (1616)
The Gonzaga Band, Jamie Savan
Resonus RES10245. 58’10

We know very little about Amadio Freddi (c1580-1643). His death is known to be in 1634, but his age at death is reported to be either c1570 or c1580. The latter date seems more likely, as in 1592 he was in paid employment at the Basilica of S. Antonio in Padua as a boy soprano, followed in 1598 with a doubling of salary as a countertenor. He seems to have come from humble background, his father having worked as a sword polisher. The payment from S. Antonio, unique for a boy soprano at the time, may have been a reflection of his families straightened circumstances. This important recording by The Gonzaga Band is the world premiere recording of his 1616 Vespers, from his Messa, vespro et compieta, composed while he was maestro di cappella at Treviso Cathedral between 1615 and 1627. In 1627 he moved to Vicenza before returning to Padua in 1634.

The Vespers were composed at the same time as Monteverdi was at St Mark’s Venice, but it is not known whether Freddi knew Monteverdi’s own Vespers. If he did, he made little effort to copy the large scale and musically dramatic nature of Monteverdi. His own Vespers are restrained, reflective, and perhaps a little introverted, despite being probably intended for a festive occasion in Treviso. Performed here with six singers and three instrumentalists (cornett, violin and organ), the music has a light and clear texture, aided by the impressive clarity of the performances. Freddi makes clever of the two solo instruments, which provide introductory Sinfonias and a Sonata by Dario Castello as well as combining and contrasting with the voices “so they do not have to sing continuously”.

Whether the published pieces were intended to be performed together is discussed in Jamie Savan’s comprehensive programme notes, the changes in vocal tessitura between the pieces being a possible clue to separate performance, and making it tricky to perform with less than 6 singers. Gaps in Freddi’s sequence are filled with an opening versicle and response from Ignazio Donati’s 1623 Psalmi boscarecci. Other vocal pieces included are by Grandi and Marini. Short organ intonations by Giovanni and Andreas Gabrieli are played by Steven Devine on a sampled Hauptwerk version of an 18th-century Italian style organ from Slovenia.

The key vocal soloist is soprano Faye Newton, her beautifully stable and clear voice adding to clarity of Freddi’s Salve Regina and Grandi’s Tota pulchra es. Jamie Savan reconstructed some of the music, and directs and plays the cornett and mute cornett, the tone of both demonstrating the vocal tone of both instruments.

More information, and a link to the CD booklet can be found here.