Zenobi & Sansoni, the great cornetto masters
InALTO, Lambert Colson
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This programme embraces imaginatively the actual musical commerce across the mountains between Northern Italy and the Hapsburg empire, personified by the two ennobled cornett players Zenobi and Sansoni. These late 16th-century “cavalieri di cornetto” were in high demand in both geographies and admired as much by their peers as by their employers. The all-instrumental programme starts bravely – and arrestingly – with a performance of the Lassus madrigalian motet Concupiscendo concupiscit anima mea. The marvellous expressiveness of the playing of such obviously text-coloured, highly-wrought phrases ironically leaves the listener slightly hungry for what’s missing. This bravery is nevertheless to be applauded, and the translation to instruments works without reservation in other pieces – particularly in the Luzzaschi which is the next example of this sort on the disc. Here the boot is on the other foot as it were, since, in the spectacular genre of musica secreta, voices were surely taking much inspiration from the instrumentalists of the time. After that arresting start using a full ensemble, the second piece is performed on solo cornett and harpsichord, thus bookending the scales of ensemble represented, and evoking the famous contemporary description of Zenobi: accompanied by a closed-lidded harpsichord, and playing in perfect balance. The third piece finds us in the familiar territory of Castello, played with verve and in a more open acoustic than the previous “chamber” sound. The playing styles, the genres included, the mix of familiar and less familiar works, the changes in scale and acoustic are all extremely well thought through and beautifully rendered. The last genre to be encountered in the programme, and completing the set on offer, is the exuberant Weckmann-style Valentini, Schmelzer and Neri pieces with their heterogeneous mixes of instruments, bringing a new conversational element and extrovert performances to the mix. A tour de force.