In spite of its noble past, the Italian salterio is almost unknown today. But hundreds of compositions for virtuosos and laymen demonstrate the interest of the upper classes in this instrument. In 1749 the salterio was banished from the church by order of Pope Benedict XIV. Nevertheless, in the second half of the century, the it came into fashion in sacred repertoire and was played especially in nunneries. The present recording was recorded with a salterio built in 1725 by Michele Barbi. The playing practice is based on research by Franziska Fleischanderl on the Italian salterio in the 18th century. For this reason, the recording represents an important scientific contribution to the subject. In the "Lamentations for the Holy Week" for obbligato psaltery, soprano and basso continuo, coming from the Benedictine monastery of San Severio (Apulia), we find a fine example of Italian Rococo, full of colourful textures and unusual sounds, masterly rendered by the soprano Miriam Feuersinger and the psaltery specialist, Franziska Fleischanderl.
Lamentations of the Holy Week
for soprano, salterio obligato & basso continuo
D. Domenico Merola (18th c.)
♪ Lezzione Seconda
1. Vau (Larghetto)
2. Et egressus est a filia sion (Allegro)
3. Zain (Lento)
4. Recordata est Jerusalem (Larghetto - Allegro)
5. Heth. Peccatum peccavit Jerusalem (Largo)
7. Ipsa autem gemens (Recitativo)
8. Sordes ejus in pedibus ejus (Allegro)
9. Vide Domine (Recitativo)
10. Jerusalem convertere (Largo)
♪ Lamentazione seconda p(er) Giovedi Santo la Sera (1781)
11. Introduzione (Allegro)
12. Lamed. Matribus suis dixerunt – Mem. Cui comparabo te? – Nun (Largo giusto)
13. Prophetae tui viderunt tibi falsa – Samech (Andante)
14. Plauserunt super te manibus (Recitativo)
15. Jerusalem convertere (Larghetto con Salterio sempre sonante)
Gennaro Manna (1715-1779)
♪ Lezzione Terza del Venerdi Santo
16. Incipit oratio (Largo e Staccato) – Recordare Domine (Poco Andante) – Pupilli facti sumus (Largo)
17. Aquam nostram pecunia bibimus (Spirituoso)
18. Aegypto dedimus manum (Recitiativo)
19. In manibus nostris afferebamus panem nobis (Spirituoso)
20. Pellis nostra, quasi clibanus exulta est (Andante)
21. Mulieres in Sion (Recitativo)
22. Jerusalem convertere (Larghetto)
♪ Atto di dolore di Metastasio
23. Io ti offro il proprio figlio (Largo assai)
Miriam Feuersinger, soprano
Il Dolce Conforto
Franziska Fleischanderl, salterio & direction
[Salterio: Michele Barbi, Rome 1725, & Reinhard Hoppe, Munich 2002 (Track 23)]
Jonathan Pesek, cello
[Cello: Raffaele Desideri, Ascoli 1837]
Deniel Perer, organo
[Organo: Giovanni Pradella, Caiolo 2011]
Recording: 3-6 April 2016, St Gerold (Austria)
(HD 1080p – Audio video)
The Salterio – Symbol of Italian aristocracy in the 18th century
In spite of its noble and glorious past, the Italian salterio is almost unknown today. Many sources document the fate of this instrument in the eighteenth century: instruments in museums and private collections, archive notes on its use in theatre, chamber music, liturgical use and teaching purposes, sales advertisements, iconographical sources, essays, exchange of instruments and works outside Italy. Hundreds of compositions for virtuosos and laymen demonstrate the interest of the upper class of society in this instrument. In contrast, there are hardly any traces of "folk" use. The salterio gradually disappeared at the beginning of the nineteenth century, as the taste changed and the public demanded more and more voluminous acoustics. Around the middle of the century, it was already almost forgotten.
In the 18th century, the nobility grew more and more fascinated by this trapezoidal instrument, which led to its play being taught in colleges, the Italian boarding schools for the aristocrats. The salterio was played in Milan, Venice, Bologna, Florence, Rome and Naples. Among the instrument makers were Michele Barbi in Rome, Francesco Cassori and Giovanni Battista Dall'Olio in the area around Bologna and Modena as well as Antonio Battaglia near Milan.
The playing technique of the instrument developed further from 1710 onward, as can be seen from the ever-increasing technical requirements of the repertoire. The most famous composer and innovator on the salterio was Florido Ubaldi from Città di Castello, who had participated in numerous performances in Rome since 1720. Vivaldi may have written the salterio part in the aria Ho nel petto un cor sì forte in Giotino (Teatro Capranica, 1724) for him, in which the "prete rosso" requires playing pizzicato. Giustino is officially the only Vivaldi opera in which the salterio appears, but he may have composed further works for the instrument, which was taught at the Conservatorio della Pietà in Venice. Leonardo Vinci also used it in Farnace (1724) and in the Serenata La Contesa de' Numi on the occasion of the birth of the French Dauphin (1729), perhaps as a tribute to Louis XIV, who loved the sound of the pantaleon (a kind of dulcimer).
The practice of playing pizzicato was not the only common way to play in Italy. In his Gabinetto armonico (1722), Filippo Bonanni wrote about a traveling German salterio player who played with sticks ("con le bacchette"). The practice of striking the strings was also common in the Collegio de Nobili di San Francesco Saverio in Bologna, as has recently been shown in studies by Franziska Fleischanderl.
From the middle of the eighteenth century, the instrument enjoyed an ever greater appreciation in Naples: Giovanni Paisiello used it in Pulcinella vendicato (1769), Giacomo Tritto in La scuola degli amanti (1783); Jommelli wrote a non-datable Sinfonia di salterio con violini e basso. The versatile scholar Saverio Mattei was a gifted salterio player; he had a bass instrument, on which one could play different notes with preset B's, which is unusual for the salterio. In Northern Italy as well, an extensive repertoire was created for this instrument. In Venice, Bonaventura Furlanetto used it in several oratorios; in 1770 Giovanni Battista Dall'Olio, from Modena, wrote his Avvertimenti e regole pe 'suonatori di salterio.
The Salterio in Sacred Music and the Benedictine Convent of San Severo
Girolamo Chiti, maestro di cappella at San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome, was one of the first to use the salterio in religious music. In 1729, he dedicated a section of the O Beata Trinitas Mass to the salterio, with solos, two choirs, orchestras and gun shots. In Bologna, Padre Martini composed a Mottetto a cembalo e salterio obbligati per solo alto, of which the date of production is not known. But in 1749, the salterio, the mandolin and the timpani were banished from the church by order of Pope Benedict XIV.
Nevertheless, in the second half of the century, the salterio came into fashion in the sacred repertoire. In Naples, for instance, it was used in the nunnery of San Gregorio Armeno. The local composer Girolamo Rossi wrote a Lezione quarta for alto, salterio and harpsichord and dedicated to the princesses of Canosa Capece Minutolo. It is well known that the musical culture of Naples influenced the whole of southern Italy; the salterio thus found its way to San Severo in Apulia in the Benedictine convent of San Lorenzo. The music of these nuns is preserved in the Archivio Capitolare of the chathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. Through the researches of Annamaria Bonsante, these sources have become the focus of musicology. The repertoire contained therein with salterio is most important for sacred music; the majority of it dates from the time between 1766 and 1772, with virtuoso works for soprano, salterio, and organ. A standard salterio was probably used in the monastery, one with which individual B's could be played, as one can deduce from the accidentals in the compositions. Almost all works with salterio have been created for the Holy Week; for this reason, the first three works of the present recording were selected and recorded in the liturgical order. The use of the salterio at this time of the church year can also be demonstrated in Spanish nunneries. Apparently, in some regions of Italy, the salterio was used as a substitute for the organ during the Holy Week, but the organ was used as a companion instrument in San Severo's works.
In the Benedictine nuns' musical inventory, the salterio appears in 21 lamentations as well as in various motets and in a single work in which it is heard in a part of a mass (Laudamus). Among the composers are Antonio Sacchini and Niccolò Piccinni with the autograph Lamentazione del venerdì santo (1772). The works show their belonging to the gallant style with their supple, leggiero motifs, the orderly and functional organization of the musical phrases, the numerous decorations as well as the proximity to the minuet. The vocal cadences, which have been carefully written out, are indicative of a significant change which obliges the singers to follow the composer's instructions exactly. Particularly typical are the works of the singer and composer Litterio Ferrari, in which the salterio part consists in part of chord breaks and in part of highly virtuoso segments.
The works for the "Lady Nuns"
The highborn sisters of San Severo were interested in the salterio, especially because of its reference to the nobility and possibly also because of its pseudo-biblical connotation. The "lady nuns" did not want to deny their social origin and the salterio helped preserve their noble image in the monastery.
There is no evidence that the salterio was taught in the monastery. Perhaps was Litterio Ferrari one of the teachers; it is also possible that he also gave singing lessons to the nuns. In any case, the great virtuosity of the salterio parts is a testament to the fact that there were instrumentalists with advanced technical skills in the monastery. The most important client of the Benedictine monastery was the "Virtuosa Accademica" Alba Maria Santelli, who came from a rich family of San Severo. The works composed for them show virtuoso characteristics, from which one can infer her remarkable singing skills. Her name appears in more than twenty (also anonymous) works that were written for soprano and various instruments between 1762 and 1785 and are all preserved in San Severo. These include a motet by Giovanni Francesco De Majo with oboes and horns, the pastorale Dormi benigne Jesu by Francesco Durante and the Lamentazioni with salterio by Sacchini. The Lezzione seconda by Domenico Merola (an otherwise unknown composer, probably from the area around Naples) was written for her, as well as the Lezzione Terza del Venerdì Santo by Gennaro Manna, both of which were recorded on this CD. It is believed that Gennaro Manna (1715-1779) composed the Lezzione Terza after 1760, at a time when he particularly intensely dealt with sacred music. The above-mentioned works and the anonymous Lamentazione Seconda per Giovedì Santo la sera are constructed as a sequence of cantatas, in which recitatives and arias alternate. The influence of the operatic style is, for example, clearly perceptible in the vocal cadences.
The anonymous Atto di dolore di Metastasio per uso del dilettante sig.r d(on) Giuseppe d'Alfonzo (or D'Alfonso) is based on the prayer (Preghiera), written in 1780 by the famous poet Pietro Metastasio after a serious illness. The aria text begins with the second verse of the work ("Io ti offro il proprio figlio"). The Atto di dolore is one of many works (also for harpsichord) in the estate of San Severo, which were for Giuseppe D'Alfonzo. A great deal of these works were written or edited in the decades between 1790 and 1810 by the well-known composer Salvatore Fighera (1771-1837), who came from Apulia and was educated in Naples. This fact suggests that he could also be the author of the Atto di dolore. This hypothesis is further strengthened by the fact that the aria with the recitative Si ne 'tormenti istessi by Fighera, using a text by Metastasio, which originates from the oratorio Isacco, is also present in the same repertoire. This work was also composed for Giuseppe D'Alfonzo.
When one considers the entirety of the works that have arisen for this singer, it is noticeable that all are written in the soprano (e.g. the Solfeggi per voce di soprano). D'Alfonzo was probably one of the last castratos of his time, and for this reason was able to keep in touch with the sisters of San Severo. The following manuscript is revelatory from this point of view: Sepulo Domino, e Popule meus, by Giuseppe Fighera, Per uso del Sig.r D. Giuseppe D'Alfonzo, Per uso del Sig.r D. Giuseppe D'Alfonzo, che ne fà un dono alla Sig.ra D. Chiarina Giannone Maestra di Cappella del Venerabile Monastero di S. Lorenzo di San Severo (for usage by Mr. Giuseppe D'Alfonzo, who wishes to make a gift to the Signora D. Chiarina Giannone, conductor of the venerable San Lorenzo Monastery in San Severo).
As with other compositions from the repertoire of the Benedictine nuns, the Atto di dolore reveals the influence of opera at the time of its creation. The piece is akin to a graceful chamber music portrait, which is reminiscent of the melodies of Mozart, Paisiello and Cimarosa. At the same time, it is one of the last "backward-oriented" historical documents, not only by the use of a male soprano, but also by the use of the salterio, which was already in the process of disappearing at that time.
The present recording was recorded with a salterio built in 1725 by Michele Barbi. The playing practice is based on the important research results of Franziska Fleischanderl relevant to Italian salterio in the 18th century. For this reason, the recording represents an important scientific contribution to the subject.
Source: Teresa Chirico (CD Booklet)
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