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Carolina Pro Musica: "Sources" Highlights Lesser-Known Renaissance Composers

Photo by John Jacob

from left: Karen Hite Jacob, Rebecca Miller Saunders, Edward Ferrell, Holly Wright Maurer, Henry Trexler.

Event  Information

Charlotte -- ( Fri., Feb. 24, 2023 )

Carolina Pro Musica: Sources
St. Mark's Lutheran Church , http://carolinapromusica.org -- 7:30 PM

February 24, 2023 - Charlotte, NC:

This preview has been provided by Carolina Pro Musica.


The Renaissance began in Italy and spread across the continent. The period afterwards would follow a similar pattern. Around this time terms of old style (stile antico) or First Practice and modern style (stile moderno) or Second Practice arose. These terms first appeared in an argument between Claudio Monteverdi and Giovanni Artusi, a student of Gioseffo Zarlino (1517-1590).  Zarlino was a music theorist and composer, the maestro di cappella of St. Mark's (San Marco) in Venice from 1565. Zarlino's writings in translations spread throughout Europe and codified ‘first practice’ similar to the style of Palestrina. Zarlino’s own compositions were conservative and polyphonic throughout.  In the aforementioned argument, Monteverdi’s distinction was that in the First Practice, music dominated the verbal text, while in the Second Practice, the text dominated the music. In this new style, the old rules were broken and dissonances used more freely to express the feelings evoked in the text. In instrumental music one can hear new ideas (see Castello below). Italian composers of this time developed music based on the old and the new. Many knew each other or at least knew the others’ compositions. Their music was published, and they held positions in major churches, courts, or opera houses. These pieces are often overlooked today but show us innovations in form and compositional techniques.

Dario Castello was an Italian composer and violinist, active in Venice, where he led his own ensemble of wind players. He also was a musician in the chapel of the Doge and at San Marco. Castello published two volumes of instrumental sonatas (Venice, 1621, 1629). They constitute an important contribution to the development of a true instrumental style and are marked by virtuoso writing in which the traditional style serves as the foundation of an exploration of the modern style. Castello’s instrumental writing is based on vocal models with works divided into sections of differing types - sometimes imitative, parallel or virtuosic. All are written with a keyboard (organ or harpsichord) as part of the basso continuo. The dates of his life range from c.1590/1602-1631 to as late as 1656/1658 when reprints of his earlier editions appeared with the title page "Dario Castello Venetiano, Head of Company of Wind musicians in Venice."  His existence was researched in detail by Eleanor Selfridge-Field (1970s) to no avail, except a journal article about the research. Will we ever know who he was?

Benedetto Giacomo Marcello (1686-1739) was an Italian composer, writer, advocate, magistrate, and teacher. Born in Venice, he was a member of a noble family. His father wanted Benedetto to devote himself to law. Benedetto managed to combine a life in law and public service with one in music. In 1711 he was appointed a member of the Council of Forty (Venice's central government). As a composer, Marcello is remembered for his Psalm settings, apparently transcribed while attending services at Venetian synagogues. He also wrote cantatas and opera.

Francesco Maria Veracini (1690-1768) was an Italian composer and violinist. Francesco Maria Veracini was born in Florence and taught violin by his uncle, Antonio Veracini. He came from an artistic family. He appeared as violin soloist in Venice at the Christmas masses at San Marco in December 1711. Veracini wrote a set of violin/recorder sonatas dedicated to Prince Friedrich August, who came to celebrate Carnival in Venice. The prince recruited singers and instrumentalists for the court in Dresden including Veracini. Though a fine performer, he did not get along well with other musicians and found himself performing mostly between London & Florence. In London in 1733, he composed an opera (with Handel present at the premiere). Veracini continued to work between London and Florence for most of his life.  

Domenico Natale Sarri, also Sarro (1679 -1744) was an Italian composer. who studied at the Neapolitan Conservatory and was appointed vice maestro di cappella of the Neapolitan court in 1704. As a result of the Austrian invasion of Naples, he lost this position in 1707, but got it back in 1725. In 1737 he was elevated as maestro di cappella at court. Composer of operas, his Didone abbandonata (1724) is the earliest setting of Metastasio's first major libretto.  Sarri is remembered today as composer of the opera chosen to open the new Teatro di San Carlo in 1737. A little gem of a cantata from Sgr. Sarri is on our program, the eternal "if" cantata. "If my heart was able to enjoy sweet peace…" A really beautiful opening Affettuoso/Amoroso aria: it features quick, to the point recitative and a snappy little Andante to finish. (James Sanderson, Cantata Editions

Bernardo Pasquini (1637-1710) was a renowned virtuoso keyboard player in his day. After ten years in Rome, he entered into the service of the Borghese family. As a composer and keyboard player, Pasquini collaborated on music performances for famous patrons in Rome such as cardinals Flavio Chigo, Benedetto Pamphilj, and the politically savvy Pietro Ottoboni. He performed his operas in honor of Queen Christina of Sweden. Pasquini was a teacher of harpsichord. With Arcangelo Corelli and Alessandro Scarlatti, in 1706 he became a member of the Academy of Arcadia. 

Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) was key in establishing the preeminence of the violin. He was trained in Bologna and Rome. He developed most of his career due to the protection of great patrons including Cardinal Pamphili and Queen Christina of Sweden. His entire output is limited to just six collections of published works, but he achieved great fame. He arrived in Rome in 1675. He was a favorite of Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, grandnephew of another Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, who in 1689 became Pope Alexander VIII. In 1708 he was in Rome, living in the palace of Cardinal Ottoboni and visiting Naples at the invitation of the king. Corelli’s style of playing was preserved by pupils, such as Geminiani, Locatelli, Castrucci, and  Gasparini. He influenced composers such as Vivaldi, Handel, Bach, & Couperin.

Antonio Maria Bononcini (June 18, 1677 - July 8, 1726) was an Italian cellist and composer. Between 1690 and 1693, he played in the orchestra of Cardinal Pamphili. He joined his brother in the court orchestra at Vienna, where in 1705 he became Kappellmeister to the future Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI. By 1713 he had returned to Italy, and in 1721 he became maestro di cappella in Modena for the rest of his life. In addition to stage works, he composed over 40 cantatas. (Padre Martini said his style is "so elevated, lively, artful and delightful, that he is distinguished above most early 18th-century composers."  This cantata like, several others on our program, comes from the Naples Conservatory.


These works are just a sampling of all the music being performed in Italy at this time. Join us for a most informative program. Carolina Pro Musica is made up of Karen Hite Jacob, harpsichord; Rebecca Miller Saunders, soprano; Holly Wright Maurer, viol, traverso and recorder; Edward Ferrell, traverso and recorders; and is joined by Henry Trexler, string bass, for this concert.