1 CD - 432 128-2 - (p) 1991


Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643) Toccata Decima (1615)
3' 54" 1

Toccata undecima (1615)

4' 49" 2

Recercar nono, con quattro soggetti (1615)

4' 20" 3

Canzona quarta (1627)

2' 45" 4

Canzona terza, detta la Crivelli (1645)

2' 50" 5

Partite sopra Folia (1615)

5' 38" 6

Capriccio di durezze (1624)

3' 24" 7

Toccata settima (1615)

4' 39" 8

Capriccio sopra un soggetto (1624)

5' 18" 9

Fantasia terza, sopra un soggetto solo (1608)

4' 19" 10

Toccata seconda (1627)

3' 02" 11

Balletto I, corrente e passacagli (1637)

1' 44" 12

Balletto II e corrente (1637)
1' 08" 13

Fantasia nona, sopra tre soggetti (1608)

5' 37" 14

Toccata decima (1627)
3' 54" 15

Gustav LEONHARDT, Harpsichord (Cornelis and Hubrecht Bom, 1987)


Luogo e data di registrazione
Doopsgezinde Kerk, Haarlem (The Netherlands) - Settembre 1990

Registrazione: live / studio

Artist and reppertoire production

Wouter Hoekstra

Recording producer, balance engineer

Hein Dekker

Recording engineer

Fiona Gale

Tape editors

Fiona Gale | Arnoud Probst

Art direction

George Cramer

Prima Edizione LP

Edizione CD
Philips | LC 0305 | 432 128-2 | 1 CD - durata 58' 12" | (p) 1991 | DDD

Cover Art

Photo: Geert Kooiman


Frescobaldi was born into a fairly wellto-do family in Ferrara, but his general education seems to have been sketchy. One contemporary classed him among those who are "so ignorant in letters that they scarcely know how to write their own names" (and certainly those writings of his that have survived are full of idiosyncratic spelling and syntax); and another, who called him "a very common man," accused him not merely of faulty wordsetting in his vocal music but of not even understanding any unusual words. It was a very different matter when it came to his talens as a performer, which commanded universal admiration. He was called "the prodigy of his time": one musician wrote that "for organ and cembalo he carries off all the honours, both in his skill and in the agility of his hands," and another commented that he had "found a new style of playing, especially on the harpsichord," adding that "today anyone not playing in this style is hardly to be considered." As a composer, Frescobaldi exercised great influence, especially through his pupil Froberger (who left his post at the Imperial court in Vienna for over three years in order to study with him): J.S. Bach as a young man attempted to copy his style.
Frescobaldi's importance lay particularly in his development of keyboard music, in which sphere his contribution was equalled at the time only by Sweelinck in Amsterdam and John Bull in London and Antwerp: he represents a link between the contrapuntal disciplines of the late Renaissance and the freer, more decorative flights of the Baroque, often with bold usage of dissonance (in which he was influenced by Gesualdo, who had spent some time in Ferrara, and by other Neapolitan composers), and in particular displaying a talent for improvisatory figurations and for variation technique (of which Cabezón had been the father-figure). He also gave unusually precise and practical directions for the performance of his works: players were encouraged to "discover the right affective expression of each passage" and to feel free to alter speeds within a piece as the character of the music changed (as was the custom in contemporary madrigal singing), to begin toccatas slowly so as to increase the brilliance of later, faster sections, to slow down towards cadences and make pauses between sections.
Frescobaldi's first publication for keyboard, in 1608, consisted of 12 Fantasias: though printed in score, each voice line on a separate stave, they are entirely apt for keyboard performance. The most intellectual of his works, each fantasia strictly derives the whole of its contrapuntal texture from the initial soggetto or soggetti (melodic figures rather than "subjects" in the modern sense), which vary in number from one to four. In Fantasia III (which changes for a while to triple metre halfway through) the contours of the single soggetto - a rising second, a rising fourth and fives notes of an ascending scale - are clearly recognisable throughout: the three soggetti of Fantasia IX - one ascending, another descending, the third circling round one note - are all presented at the beginning, the first eventually engendering a figure of rising semitones. In contrast, normally in ricercari the soggetti were deployed in successive sections, but Ricercar IX from Frescobaldi's 1615 collection is exceptional in developing all four of its themes simultaneously - a remarkable contrapuntal feat which has been called a distant forerunner of Bach's uncompleted Contrapunctus XV in "Die Kunst der Fuge."
In 1615 also appeared the First Book of Toccatas, an immensely popular volume that was reprinted several times (with revisions and additions). The toccatas represent a transition from the traditional modes (No. 7 is basically in the Aeolian, Nos. 10 and 11 are in the Ionian) to the new system of tonality, bringing in its train a shift from linear to harmonic thinking (No. 11 is strikingly free in this regard, employing many chromaticisms). More importantly, to an extraordinary degree they mirror Frescobaldi's acclaimed art of improvisation - full of brilliant passaggi and ornamental cadences, the chordal framework embellished with decorative flights passed from one voice to another, and with an unmistakable expressive quality. His relative indifference to the structure of the whole is shown by his remark, in the second edition, that each section "may be played on its own apart from the others, so that the performer is not obliged to finish the whole work but may stop where he desires." The same volume also contains a few partite (sets of variations) on popular melodies. That adopted for "La Folia," however, is not the familiar theme used by Corelli and others, but a binary one usually called the fedele.
1624 saw the publication of a book of 12 capricci which also enjoyed a wide popularity. although all employ an abundance of imitative counterpoint, they cover a variety of treatments. The majority are multisectional pieced based on such familiar subjects as ascending or descending hexachords, the cuckoo's call or traditional dance tunes from the Low Countries, but one is a riddle for a fifth singing part - the entry points left to the performer's ingenuity - to be added to the four-part instrumental composition. The "Capriccio sopra un soggetto" displays Frescobaldi's mastery pf variation technique, the rhythmically energetic soggetto itself becoming modified (as in the canzona form) in the successive variations of pace, metre and figuration. On the other hand, the shorter "Capriccio di durezze" (on dissonances) is more akin to a ricercare: it is a structurally continuous whole with well defined, well developed motifs but without passaggi or metrical changes: its chromaticism lends it great expressiveness.
The second Book of Toccatas of 1627 in fact contains, besides 11 toccatas (some specifically designated for organ), a great diversity of other forms, including canzonas, liturgical movements, variations and dance pieces. Frescobaldi announced it as exemplifying a "new manner... with novelty of artifice" and calling for "grace, ease, variety of measure, and elegance" in performance. Certainly the complexity of the texture is greater than in the First Book, with elaborate passage-work, sequences, more pronounced contrasts between the various sections, and lenghty preparation of cadences. No. 10 is especially notable for the variety of its rhythmic patterns, which include Lombard snaps and dotted figures. The spirited Canzona No. 4 from this book falls into several sections (the first a short fugue) strongly differentiated in metre and rhythm, though unity is preserved by all the material being derived from that in the initial part.
In the third edition (1637) of his First Book of Toccatas, Frescobaldi added several extra pieces, among them some miniature dance groups. In both the first and second of these there are two binary movements - a balletto in duple metre and a triple-metre corrente which is thematically related (more obviously in No. 1); but No. 1 concludes with a passacagli (consisting of six appearances of the twobar ground bass). Two years after Frescobaldi's death, 11 canzoni alla francese were brought out by the Venetian publisher alessandro Vincenti. The title "La Crivelli," the third of these, almost certainly refers to Giovanni Battista Crivelli, who some time in the 1620's was maestro di cappella in Frescobaldi's native town of Ferrara: it is in effect a fugue in firmly regular duple rhythm.
© 1991 Lionel Salter