The only complete survey available of the keyboard music written by a forward-looking contemporary of Monteverdi.
Giovanni Picchi (1572-1643) flourished in Venice, notably as the organist at the Scuola di San Rocco. He became renowned as a composer of both secular and sacred music, attested by his presence in the Nobiltà di dame by Fabrizio Caroso, the most important collection of dance music of the time. A collection of his canzone was published in 1625 and his fame spread to England, where a Toccata for harpsichord was transcribed within the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book (of which Brilliant has recently released the first-ever complete recording, 95915).
Other important sources for his keyboard music include collections published in Venice in 1621 and an undated collection of intablatures (transcriptions and elaborations of music by other composers) which is now held in Turin. Together they amount to some of the most brilliant and appealing music for the harpsichord from 17th-century Italy. Picchi’s harmonic language was especially daring, and his flair as a performer is reflected in the style of his writing, which exploits the full range of the instrument.
In complement to Picchi’s work, Simone Stella has chosen other jewels from Venetian composers of the time: toccatas, ricercare and canzone by Annibale Padovano, Claudio Merulo, Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli and Vincenzo Bellavere. Bellavere is another neglected figure nowadays, but the Toccata recorded here is a gloriously ornate example of the genre, alternating intricate counterpoint with filigree decoration.
Giovanni Matteo Picchi was born in Venice, one of the most important musical centers of that time. A versatile musician, perfectly at ease in the practice of both secular and church music, Picchi lived and worked most of his life in Venice, and concentrated on performing on and composing for the keyboard, developing a musical practice closely linked to dance music, which enjoyed widespread popularity and a prestigious tradition in Venice.
In 1619, Picchi published Intavolatura di balli d’arpicordo, one of the rare collections of music for keyboard moulded on contemporary dance music. The majority of Picchi's dances are composed in pairs. Three of the four Passamezzos are followed by a Saltarello in triple meter. The short dances in duple meter (Ballo alla Polacha, Ballo Ongaro and the Todescha) conclude with either a balletto or saltarello in triple meter. The Padoana ditta la Ongara and the Ongara a un altro modo obviously form a single composition consisting of variations.
Further to the keyboard music of Picchi this recording presents other keyboard works by Venetian masters: Padovano, Merulo, Gabrieli and Bellavere, a collection of Canzonas, Toccatas and Ricerares.
Played on the harpsichord by Simone Stella. With his earlier recordings for Brilliant Classics (Buxtehude, Böhm, Reincken, Walther, Pachelbel and many others), Simone Stella established his reputation as one of the foremost interpreters of Baroque keyboard music, receiving 5 star reviews in the international press.
Praise for Simone Stella on Brilliant Classics:
Walther, 94730: ‘A release of major importance… Emphatically recommended as indispensable to every collection of organ music.’ Fanfare
Buxtehude, 94216: ‘Stella succeeds in capturing all the facets of Buxtehude’s universe.’ Diapason
Buxtehude, 94312: ‘Here we have an Italian eager to touch base with his inner Teuton, as Stella sets well-ordered lucidity above unfettered flamboyance.’ BBC Music Magazine
Froberger, 94740: ‘Stella’s achievement… is remarkable… The polyphonic pieces are played with commitment and virtuosity, while the harpsichord suites and tombeaux are played with excellent style and expression.’ Choir and Organ