This recording was inspired by the sounds of a sixteenth-century Italian organ, sounds that establish a tangible link to the musical culture of the Italian Renaissance. Completed in 1519 by Giovanni Piffaro, the organ in Siena's Santa Maria della Scala was being constructed as Raphael painted his Sistine Madonna and as Michelangelo finished the tomb for Pope Julius II. The preoccupation with visual opulence characteristic of these art works is also manifested in the facade of Piffaro's organ: an entry of 1519 in the Siena city archive includes a drawing of the organ and documents the large sums spent on the decoration and gilding of the case.
Of course the most important aspect of any musical instrument is its sound, which is often modified during the course of the centuries to suit changing musical tastes. Fortunately, this was not the case with the Piffaro organ; excepting the addition of a Musetto in the eighteenth century and the lowering of the instrument's pitch in the nineteenth, the organ has remained virtually unchanged to the present day. This may be explained by the proximity of the Siena Duomo, whose more recently built organs fulfilled the demands for the performance of romantic and modern repertoire. Thus, the Piffaro organ is a rare and remarkable testament of the Renaissance sound ideal. "Soave" and "dolce" are the most common terms of praise used in accounts of musical performances during the Italian Renaissance. The expressivity and nuance of the human voice were highly prized, and instrumentalists sought to imitate its fluidity and sweetness. Since the tones of the organ were immutably fixed, without the possibility of dynamic inflection that is so intrinsic to a singing style, the instrument was in some ways ill-suited the tonal esthetic of the period. Yet when listening to the Piffaro organ, one can hardly imagine a more "soave" or "dolce" rendering of the Renaissance repertoire. This singing quality is attained in part by doubling pipes of the same timbre and pitch to create slight fluctuations of intensity and tuning. Piffaro doubled many of the Principale pipes and tripled those of the Ottava; this produces small irregularities in voicing and tuning which imitate the expressive nuances of the human voice.
Because of the striking character of each of its timbres, the Piffaro organ may be compared to an artist's palette containing a few radically distinct colors. Despite its small size, the instrument is capable of remarkable diversity, from the noble grandeur of the ripieno to the delicacy of the flauto. One is reminded of the contrasting descriptions of the two singers in Castiglione's Cortegiano:
"Bidon's style of singing is so artful, quick, vehement, exciting and varied in its melodies that everyone who hears it is moved and set on fire...our Marchetto Cara is no less emotional in his singing, but with a softer harmony; he makes the soul tender and penetrates it calmly and in a manner full of mournful sweetness." The contrast between these two styles--the vehement excitement of Bidon and Cara's mournful sweetness--is a vital aspect of my interpretation of the organ music. Through touch and articulation it is possible to create totally different sensations, and at times, it even seems as if the individual pipes possess vocal cords that are set in motion differently according to the organist's manipulation of the keys. The repertoire also exploits the contrasting moods suggested by Castiglione's description: Bertoldo's chanson intabulations require quick precision, while those of Marcantonio Cavazzoni penetrate the soul with tenderness.
The importance of the vocal repertory to the performance of Renaissance instrumental music cannot be overstated. This is evident in the large number of organ intabulations of vocal models. In 1517, shortly before the completion of the Piffaro organ, the printer Antico published a collection of keyboard intabulations under the title Frottole intabulate da sonare organi. This was the first book of printed Italian organ music, and to for a modern performance, one can hardly imagine a more suitable instrument than the Piffaro organ.
I have included eight of these frottole in the recording, and to emphasize their vocal character the registrations are limited to the Principale 12' and Ottava 6', played in different octaves without adding the higher pitched registers characteristic of large Italian organs. All but one of the frottole included here are based on vocal originals by the famous frottolist Bartolomeo Tronboncino, although the model for the first one, "Chi non crede," has not yet been found. "Frena donna," included in the second set, is an anonymous frottola first published in Antico's Second Book of Frottole in 1516. We do not know who actually arranged the pieces for keyboard, but in the absence of precise attributions, it has been assumed that Antico himself was the transcriber. If so, he is to be congratulated for his creative results. As Giuseppe Radole notes in his Preface to the modern facsimile of the 1517 print, "he chose compositions that seemed the most easily reduced to keyboard transcription, introducing with great liberty, passing notes, leaps and appoggiaturas that modify the original melodic line; he introduced new notes and omitted old ones; he changed the distribution of the parts so that the harmonies gained a new resonance at the keyboard... Instead of a rather static vocal piece, Antico translates the work into movement and lightness." This is evident in Antico's addition of melodic passages to link the sections within the frottole, and his variation of certain passages to offset the many phrase repetitions of the form. In "Sie debile," he uses different embellishments and octave displacement in the soprano line to vary repetitions of the same passage.
Although the title Frottole ...da sonare organi specifies performance on the organ, the engraving on the title page of the frottole suggests that they were intended for a more intimate, domestic setting. [reproduction of title page] The woodcut depicts a man playing a harpsichord whose music stand bears the Medici coat of arms, in honor of Pope Leo X, to whom Antico dedicated the collection. Behind the instrument stands a woman whose right hand holds a music book downward as if she were discarding it; her left hand seems to be pushing away a monkey sitting on the lid of the harpsichord. Since the monkey clutches a lute, it may represents Petrucci, Antico's rival, who had published several books of lute music earlier in the sixteenth century. The musicologist Dragan Plamenac puts forward a convincing interpretation of the iconography: having assembled to perform frottole in the manner applied in the arrangements published by Petrucci, the woman and monkey are dislodged by the youth playing Antico's transcriptions for keyboard.
This reading of the depiction suggests the growing importance of instrumental music during the Renaissance, a time of experimentation and the development of new techniques. The age of the first oil-painting, the first woodcut, the first copperplate and the first printed book also witnessed the growth of a flourishing keyboard culture, as documented in the works of this recording, all of which were published in Italy during the sixteenth century.
Marcantonio Cavazzoni published his first organ book, entitled Recerchari, motetti, canzoni..., in 1523. Like Antico, he included arrangements of vocal works, although none of the original models is known to have survived. The titles of the four canzonas suggest a French origin: "Plus de regres," "Madame vous aves," "Perdone moi," and "Lautre yor." Like Antico's frottole, Cavazzoni's canzonas present an ornamented melody in the soprano voice, accompanied by simple chords and contrapuntal lines in the left hand part. There is also much parallel movement in thirds and sixths, and a sectional structure articulated through repetition.
But Cavazzoni's works contain more imitation, with motives being repeated in different pitch ranges and between parts, and a more developed sense of ornamentation, with longer trill motives and decorative scale passages. These techniques are fully exploited in the motet "Salve virgo," which later became the model for an early English "Fancy" by Newman in the Mulliner Book. It is interesting to note that Newman improved Cavazzoni's counterpoint by condensing his second exposition of the main motive; at the same time, all references to the vocal model, the motet, are lost: the simple title "Fancy" implies that the work was originally conceived for keyboard.
The keyboard style pioneered by M. Cavazzoni thus sowed the seeds for the development of free organ works by other composers. The two Recercares he published in 1523 represent some of the earliest attempts to write idiomatically for the instrument, using chords in one hand against scale passages in the other hand and creating a form where predominantly homophonic sections interrupt more horizontally conceived polyphonic writing. To accentuate the instrumental character of the Recercare primo on this recording, I have used the Ripieno of the Piffaro organ, composed of the Principale, Ottava, XV, XIX, XXII. The grandeur of this sound enhances the full opening chords and emphasizes Cavazzoni's use of shifting textures that vary from two to six parts. The addition and subtraction of parts was an important expressive tool, enabling the organ to imitate the crescendi and diminuendi of vocal music.
Like his father Marcantonio, Girolamo Cavazzoni composed recercars and canzonas. His first organ book, published in Venice in 1543, contained arrangements of two French chansons, "Il est bel et bon" by Passereau and "Faulte d'argent" by Josquin. Like Antico, Girolamo altered the vocal models he selected to produce more convincing keyboard adaptations: he greatly shortened Passereau's piece and reduced Josquin's five parts to four, changing some of the points of imitation and the timing of their entries. Especially striking in the Passereau chanson is Girolamo's addition of cadential ornamentation, requiring a slower tempo for the intabulation than for the less elaborate vocal version, where the alliteration of the words "bel" and "bon" profits from a lively tempo.
Girolamo's instrumental recercar of 1551 is included here to provide a contrast with the more idiomatic keyboard style of his father. Originally intended for performance by three instrumentalists and published in a collection of instrumental recercars by Gardane in Venice, the piece is written in a strict contrapuntal style, without the contrasting chords and passagework of the earlier keyboard recercars. It is composed of a series of imitative expositions characterized by syncopation, repeated notes, and dotted rhythms.
In the same year that he published G. Cavazzoni's instrumental recercar, Gardane printed a collection of dance arrangements for keyboard entitled Intabolatura nova. Dances provided an important source for keyboard elaboration, and Gardane's print includes three variations on the Passamezzo antico, where the increasing complexity of the figuration suggests that the group was conceived as a variation set. I have included a variation of my own on the pavane tune "Forze d'Hercule," which is followed by the spirited "Venetiana Galliarda," in contrasting compound meter.
Sperindio Bertoldo's works for keyboard are preserved in two books, Tocate, ricercari et canzoni francese, and Canzoni francese intavolate, both published posthumously by Vincenti in Venice in 1591. There are many ambiguities and errors in these publications, and at times it is necessary to make slight modifications to the printed text to obtain a sensible musical result. Bertoldo's chanson transcriptions represent an apotheosis of keyboard technique; his arrangements of "Frais et gaillard" and "Un gai berger" contain extravagant ornamentation in both hands, decorating cadences in a florid manner that contrasts with the austere points of imitation opening each phrase of the vocal models. The lively repeated chords of the "Canzone francese," remind us of Bertoldo's other song intabulations, although no vocal model is specified. The generic title and the publication of the piece with toccatas and ricercars, rather than in the volume devoted to chansons, suggest that the Canzone was conceived independently of a particular vocal model. Thus Bertoldo would have created a keyboard piece based on an original theme and retaining the spirited imitation of the French chanson.
The Ricercar ending the recording has much in common with the chansons that precede it. Bertoldo applies the contrapuntal and ornamental techniques of his vocal intabulations to the exposition of a single original theme. This subject is strikingly similar to the later chorale tune "Saint Anne," with its two rising fourths.
The performance of this early Italian repertoire on the Piffaro organ thus traces a fifty-year evolution, showing the influence of vocal intabulations on the development of a distinctly instrumental form, the ricercar. The ricercars of Marcantonio Cavazzoni are free fantasies contrasting chordal and linear textures. The 1551 instrumental ricercar of his son Girolamo is based on several points of imitation, resulting in a structure similar to that of the French chanson. Spirindio Bertoldo's Ricercar del Sesto Tuono exploits a single theme contrapuntally, incorporating the idiomatic ornamentation found in the composer's chanson arrangements. Before his death in 1570, Bertoldo had succeeded in creating a work from one subject alone, challenging the polythematic organization of most Renaissance ricercars. This Italian cultivation of fugal forms was to reap full harvest in the organ works of Girolamo Frescobaldi during the next century.
- Kimberly Marshall
 B. Castiglione, Ilcortegiano. (1528; Eng.trans. New York, 1959), Book I, ch. 37.