The Amazing Frescobaldi Bargain
G.Frescobaldi, Complete Published Keyboard Works,
R.Loreggian, F.Tasini, S.Vartolo
But somehow it is true, because the box was ordered a while ago, duly delivered, and is still available at the same price.
The next surprise was that this is not a cheap-as-can-be budget product at all: It’s not twelve clunky jewel cases held together by flimsy slipcase nor a bare-bones box without notes*. Au contraire, the set is contained in a beautiful slim and sturdy box, with individualized cardboard sleeves, and a 64-page booklet (half Italian, half English) that talks about the music and the instruments (organs depicted and dispositions listed).
A third surprise was afoot, and that’s just how enjoyable the music is. Early keyboard music (these works date from 1608 to 1645) takes a certain predisposition to want to hear 12 CDs of, and for all the virtues of Renaissance greats like Lassus, Victoria, Byrd, and Monteverdi, or Baroque masters like Froberger, Kapsberger, Carissimi, Gibbons and Schütz… Bach they ain’t. Neither is Frescobaldi (much admired and occasionally adapted by Bach), who straddles the stylistic border between Renaissance and Baroque, but boy: his music isn’t the least bit dry and—whether on the organ or harpsichord—consistently appealing! The father of the ‘modern’ Passacaglia has greatly improved my opinion on Toccatas as a genre with his imaginative and greatly varied contributions. The example provided below comes from his Capriccio Pastorale which makes a perhaps undeservedly great case for the bagpipers it imitates.
Arranged chronologically, the works included (about 13 hours worth) are played on nine different instruments by Roberto Loreggian, Francesco Tasini, and Sergio Vartolo and include various singers—astonishingly accurate trebles among them—when the pieces ask for it or where it makes for a fun inclusion. So, among several pieces, in the Bergamasca in which Frescobaldi varies the “Bergamasca melody” that is at the base of Bach’s quodlibet of “Kraut und Rüben / haben mich vertrieben” and “Ich bin so lang nicht bey dir g’west” (Goldberg Variations) and where the intertwined lines of the songs are sung before the Frescobaldi variations are played on the organ. Just one of many charming touches on this wonderful set.