Piccinini: Lute Music

Mónica Pustilnik lute
Accent ACC 24193

Two books of music by Alessandro Piccinini survive: his Intavolatura di Liuto e di Chitarrone Libro Primo (1623) and Intavolatura di Liuto (1639). The chitarrone (i.e. theorbo) pieces from the first book are one of the few major sources of music for that instrument, and have been recorded frequently in recent years. Piccinini’s lute pieces are less well known, so it is nice to hear some of them in this recording by Mónica Pustilnik. The second book was published a year after Piccinini’s death by his son, Leonardo Maria Piccinini, who collected his father’s music together to create a second volume. Of the sixteen tracks, half are from the first book, and half from the second.

The CD gets off to a slow, gentle start with a Sarabanda all francese (bk.2, p.20). The long third section seems to be a separate piece of music, with a change of rhythm to 3/2, of tonality from C major to C minor, and interspersed with scalic runs of quavers. Pustilnik adds little ornaments of her own here and there.

Her interpretaion of Corrente 9 (bk.2, p.38) is carefully phrased, but lacks the drive one might have expected to keep the dance flowing. Ricercar Primo (bk.2, p.12) – not Ricercare Primo from book 1 – develops a slow, rising, chromatic theme. Pustlinik opts for a somewhat free interpretation, but the result is a speed which keeps changing. The first two bars are at crotchet=76; by bar 6 it has accelerated to crotchet=100; the speed starts to slow down in bar 36 (the first bar with semiquavers), so that by the penultimate bar it is down to crotchet=56, almost half the speed it was, and Piccinini’s climax is emasculated.

Piccinini’s inventiveness may be heard in Aria di Saravanda in Varie Partite (bk.1, p.44), including um-chings with occasional strums reminiscent of a baroque guitar, broken chords, and a variation high up the neck at the 10th fret. Most extraordinary is his Toccata Cromatica 12 (bk1, p.45), with sequences of dotted rhythms, strange chromatic turns, a wide range with a trill up to the 12th fret and a scale down to the 12th course in the bass. Pustlinik sustains it well, bringing out its contrasting moods. She adds some nice touches of her own for the repeats of Corrente 6 (bk.1, p.51), and I enjoyed her sparkling interpretation of Corrente 7 (bk.2, p.30), a piece which to me sounds more French than Italian.

Two of the longest tracks are a Chiaccona… alla vera Spagnola (bk.2, Cappona p.55; Mariona p.49), which consist of a constantly changing set of variations over a simple 4-bar ground.

Pustlinik plays a single-strung archlute by Francisco Hervas. The treble notes are stronger than the rest, but that may be due to the recording engineer rather than the instrument.

Stewart McCoy