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“Es ist ein Genuss, diese Musik auf Tasteninstrumenten zu hören, die nicht nach genormter Bauart hergestellt worden sind, wie es heute im Instrumentenbau überwiegend üblich ist, und Anne Marie Dragosits versteht es wunderbar, die Besonderheiten der beiden Instrumente ‘herauszukitzeln’ und ihre jeweils ganz individuelle Wesensart zur Geltung zu bringen.”
Wolfgang Schicker, BR Klassik

Italian music fascinated performers and composers all over Europe throughout the whole of the Baroque period. This recording is devoted to the incredibly varied harpsichord literature of the 17th century: the spectrum ranges from strict polyphonic compositions in stile antico, through imaginative sets of variations or dances to the free toccatas of the stile nuovo. As was the case with vocal music, the new forms of instrumental music suddenly play with emotions, affects and the element of surprise. This rich palette is reflected in the admittedly very subjective choice of works for the ITALIA! programme.

Venice at the end of the 16th century is represented with two playful Gagliards from Giovanni Maria Radino which, from a stylistic point of view, stand in a direct line to Giovanni Picchi’s small homage to Germany (or a German girl?) – “la Todesca“ – as well as his Passamezzo, published in 1621. The famous Ciacona by Bernardo Storace, then second Master of the Chapel in Messina, was also published in Venice, the latter once being one of the centres of musical printing.

The main focus of the programme, however, concentrates on Rome and its famous keyboard players. Of Girolamo Frescobaldi’s important oeuvre for keyboard we only hear a short Passacaglia, but the works of the next generation of keyboard players clearly show his musical legacy. His pupil Michelangelo Rossi’s spectacular chromatic Toccata is a radical example of the expressive instrumental style of the early 17th century, particularly if performed, as here, in mesotonic temperament.

Bernardo Pasquini was a key figure of the Roman music scene in the late seventeenth century and the chamber music partner of Arcangelo Corelli. His “Follia“ is a typical variation work of this period: a returning bass model is presented in manifold ways – as a dance, in virtuoso variations or with a melancholic turn, ornated with harmonical and rhythmical finesse.

The Italian school also influenced harpsichord literature north of the Alps, “on the other side of the mountains“. Many “oltramontani“ followed the summons to “ITALIA!“: Johann Jakob Forberger studied in Rome with Frescobaldi in the late 1630s and there is evidence of him having contact with Michelangelo Rossi. During his second musical pilgrimage to Rome to study with Giacomo Carissimi and Athanasius Kircher a decade later he must also have met Carissimi’s German student Johann Caspar Kerll.

Thirty years later, Rome still attracted talented young musicians from the North – Georg Muffat came to study with Pasquini and was strongly influenced also by Corelli. Froberger as well as Muffat were polyglot and widely traveled. Both show a strong affinity for the French style. The interpretations on this recording are, however, purely Italian because the respective collections containing the chosen works clearly relate to the Italian periods of both composers.

Short interludes played on the Veronensis spinet provide an attractive aural counterpoint to the more substantial works performed on the Giusti harpsichord. The early pieces by Radino or Picchi’s “Todesca“ in particular fit the spinet, built in 1564, like a glove.

One of those intermezzi is an instrumental version of the lyrical Villanella “Giunto il sole in Occidente“ by Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger, the famous “Tedesco della tiorba“ – who, even if “Oltramontano“ by descent, spent all his life in Italy. Such instrumental appropriation of vocal music by instruments able to play perfect harmony is documented in numerous manuscripts.

The privilege of being allowed to play on the wonderful originals belonging to the Germanic Museum has enriched my approach to these pieces and in many cases provided new directions. Both instruments speak an unmistakeable language, both possess a strong and individual character, which sometimes led me away from my original ideas – and sometimes made me work hard to convince the instruments of my way of playing those pieces.

The tactile pleasure of contact between fingers and keys on the Giusti instrument reminded me of walking the stairs in an old Palazzo. Each well-worn stair – each key which had been obviously, visibly and perceptibly played for centuries – breathes history and tells a story. That the action of those “stairs“ does not react as smoothly and evenly as on the keyboard of a modern copy, is easily forgotten listening to the incomparable sound of both instruments.

For me, the recording days were filled with conversations as if with chamber music partners, lively encounters with strong personalities.

Anne Marie Dragosits

Michelangelo Rossi (ca.1601 – ca.1670)
Settima Toccata
Giovanni Maria Radino (ca.1550 – ca.1607)

Gagliarda seconda

Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583 – 1643)
Partite sopra Passacagli

Giovanni Picchi (ca.1572 – 1643)
la Todesca

Johann Jakob Froberger (1616 – 1667)
Partita II

Giovanni Maria Radino
Gagliarda prima
Bernardo Storace (ca.1637 – ca.1707)


Johann Kaspar Kerll (1627 – 1693)
Toccata prima
Canzona prima

Preludio Arpeggio
Bernardo Pasquini (1637 – 1710)
Partite sopra Follia

Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger (ca.1580 – 1651)
Giunto il sole in Occidente

Georg Muffat (1653 – 1704)