A banquet of first recordings, highly original works and composers little known outside their native Italy in a new recording by one of today’s most adventurous harpsichordists.
The neoclassical composers of 20s Paris were among the first to revive the harpsichord as a ‘modern’ instrument, inspired by the stirrings of the ‘early music’ movement in the hands of musicians such as Nadia Boulanger and Wanda Landowska. However, the postwar modernists found little use for it and only in the last few decades, not least thanks to the skill and imagination of virtuosos such as Elisabeth Chojnacka, Mahan Esfahani and Luca Quintavalle, has the harpsichord become once more as viable and respectable an instrument for new music as it was in the days of d’Anglebert and Couperin.
Indeed the earliest pieces on this survey of modern Italian music for the harpsichord date back to 1988: Mordenti and Neumi by Ennio Morricone, doyen of film and specifically spaghetti Western composers but whose training was thoroughly Classical. Formed of two interlocking chromatic canons, Mordenti in particular deserves wider attention. Plenty of other works here make play with the history of the instrument as well as its sonorities, such as Rumbling Gears, a hyperkinetic toccata by Sylvia Colasanti, and a Ricercare by Fabio Vacchi.
Scarlatti is the inspiration for another piece of Vacchi’s as well as an ornate elaboration of the same idiom by Jacopo Baboni Schilingi in Scarlet K141. The Petit Ordre by Carlo Galante explicitly returns to the world of Couperin but now tinged with modern Quando il passato era ancora presente by harmonies to evoke a lost world. There are several pieces from the last two years that inevitably reflect on the experience of solitude enforced by the pandemic, such as Short Stories by Vittorio Montalti and Leonardo Marino.
With a full introduction to all the works and composers on the album by Luca Quintavalle, the album makes an arresting introduction to the music of many composers otherwise hardly represented in the current catalogue, and a significant new volume in the library of harpsichord music.
This program presents a comprehensive overview of works by contemporary Italian composers played on the harpsichord, collected by Luca Quintavalle.
Included are pieces for harpsichord already composed but not yet recorded (Morricone, Fedele, Solbiati, Galante, Cacciatore and Marino), arrangements for harpsichord by the artist, with the consent of the composer (Vacchi, Francesconi, Filidei, Lanza, Solbiati, Gervasoni, Colasanti and Antonioni) and completely new pieces written for the artist (Vacchi, Colombo Taccani, Palumbo, Baboni Schilingi, Montalti, Capogrosso).
It is fascinating to witness the experiments of contemporary composers when writing for the harpsichord, this “ancient” instrument, nowadays mostly used for Renaissance/Baroque music, but proving to be an endless source of unheard-of sounds and timbres, affects and sonorities.
Luca Quintavalle is one of the most remarkable keyboard players of the moment. He has collaborated as a soloist with orchestras such as Concerto Köln, Les Talens Lyriques, Balthasar-Neumann-Ensemble, Cappella Gabetta, Il Canto d’Orfeo, Harmonie Universelle, Divino Sospiro, Il Pomo d’Oro, Capella Augustina, La Folia Barockorchester, Kölner Kammerorchester, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and WDR Sinfonieorchester.
His first solo recording of Jean-Baptiste Barrière’s and Bernard de Bury's harpsichord music by the label Brilliant Classics was chosen as “Recording of the month” from MusicWeb International and got really positive reviews (“a great deal of excellent playing by Luca Quintavalle; enjoyable listening, which may be unreservedly recommended.” Early Music-Oxford Journal; “I don't expect this recording to be surpassed” American Record Guide. Recently he recorded the Piano Sonatas by Anton Eberl for Brilliant Classics, to great critical acclaim.