Girolamo Frescobaldi Toccate e partite d'intavolatura di cimbalo, libro primo

In a new recording released by Aparté on 29 March, harpsichordist Christophe Rousset turns towards the first published music of the early seventeenth century composer Girolamo Frescobaldi. A keen musical archaeologist, Rousset unearths the treasures of the early harpsichord repertoire under a composer renowned as the first great composer for the instrument.

Born in Ferrara, Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643) learnt his trade under Luzzasco Luzzaschi. His renowned skill at the keyboard earned him several prestigious posts, including organist at St Peter's Basilica, Rome, a position he held for most of his working life, and at the court of the Grand Duke of Tuscany.

With several volumes of his music published, the composer exerted considerable influence on the next generation, including Johann Jakob Froberger, Michelangelo Rossi, and Bernardo Storace; J. S. Bach himself possessed a copy of Frescobaldi's Fiori musicali.

"The astounding inventiveness of Frescobaldi's declamation, the variety of his affects, the erudition of his counterpoint, and the vast scale of his forms prove the exceptional nature of his compositions. "Composing well" for the harpsichord consists above all of a complete understanding of the instrument's limitations and shortcomings in order to go beyond them and use them to one's advantage." - Christophe Rousset

Frescobaldi's first book of Toccate e partite d'intavolatura di cimbalo (first printed in 1615 and later revised in 1736) illustrates the composer's desire to make his instrument sing: his writing achieves this through its free improvisation, virtuosity, and rhythmic variation. Frescobaldi's greatest innovation is introducing frequent metre changes or free writing around a supple beat. The composer even included a detailed preface to advise performers of his fresh approach.

On this recording, Christophe Rousset plays an anonymous late sixteenth-century instrument, recently restored following being reconfigured by Rinaldo de Bertonis in 1736. The unusually worn keys show how intensely the instrument had originally been played. The harpsichords available to Frescobaldi had a reduced compass of four octaves and did not allow for register changes.

 

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