Cavazzoni: Complete Works: Italian Ricercars

Glen Wilson harpsichord
Naxos 8.572998
Veggio & + music by Brunel, Fogliano, Merulo, Parabosco, Segni, Veggio, Willaert & anon

Glen Wilson has been systematically exploring the early keyboard repertory for Naxos for many years. Having devoted a recording to the earliest keyboard publication, the frottole  intabulated by Andrea Antico in 1517 (Naxos 8.572983), here he turns his attention to the next print, the Recercari, motetti, canzoni, libro primo  of Marco Antonio Cavazzoni. Since it contained just eight pieces he has filled the disc with Cavazzoni’s only other surviving piece, (a ricercar) as well as ricercars by his son Girolamo and by a series of composers including Fogliano, Brunel, Veggio, Parabosco and Merulo. This intentionally provides us with a survey of the ricercar  from its origins up to Merulo. The disc is also designated as a celebration of the oldest surviving harpsichord, known to have been owned by Pope Leo X who employed Cavazzoni, and pictured on the cover; though not stated in the notes, this is the Vincentius instrument now in the Accademia Chigiana in Siena. It is not in playing condition and, unfortunately, the liner notes do not tell us anything about the (clearly Italian-style) harpsichord used by Wilson – odd because he stresses in the notes his strong belief that harpsichord, rather than organ, was the instrument of choice in the early 16th century. That apart, Wilson’s notes are extremely well-researched and useful. His playing is equally well-informed and the rather esoteric character of some of the ricercars  is well contrasted with the lighter and more virtuosic intabulations. I was particularly struck by an attractive recercada  by Claudio Veggio which, as Wilson points out, was in advance of its time stylistically. Wilson is more than up to the technical demands of this and the elder Cavazzoni’s chanson arrangements, and the recording quality is warm and clear. This is a very useful recording of some of the earliest surviving Italian keyboard music, attractively and convincingly presented.

Noel O’Regan