The Capricci armonici sopra la chitarra spagnola by Count Ludovico Roncalli (1654–1713) is believed to be the last collection of music for the five-course baroque guitar published in Italy and one of the first collections of baroque guitar music to attract attention in modern times. It was the complete transcription in staff notation by distinguished Italian scholar Oscar Chilesotti that inspired Ottorino Respighi to include an orchestrated version of the Passacaglia in G minor in his Antiche danze ed arie per liuto in 1931.
For this reason, Roncalli’s music has always been popular with classical guitarists, but this wonderful recording allows it be heard on the kind of instrument in use at the time, and therefore to be appreciated fully. The guitar of Roncalli’s day had five gut-strung courses, the first often single and the fourth and fifth either octave-strung or re-entrant (only the fourth course is octave-strung on this recording).
The Capricci armonici comprises nine sonate (suites), one in each of eight tuoni (modes) and one in the tuono trasportato, following the classification system in use at the time. Roncalli has, however, arranged his sonate in order of key, rather than mode, pairing one in a major key with one in the relative minor, although those in A minor and C major are separated by the pair in F major and D minor.
Each suite opens with a free-style preludio and then an expositional alemanda which is developed in additional 17th-century dance movements such as the corrente, sarabanda, giga, minuet and gavotte, providing an overall sense of thematic unity.
Recorded in August of 2019 in Blankenburg (Harz), Germany
The booklet contains liner notes on the composer and his music by Baroque guitar researcher Monica Hall, as well as a biography of the artist
Ludovico Roncalli was born into an aristocratic family in Bergamo, Italy. He studied law and later became a priest. For his musical education he went to Rome, where he enjoyed the patronage of Cardinal Panfilio, the dedicatee of his Capricci Armonici.
This new recording contains Roncalli’s complete Capricci Armonici. The book includes Nine Sonate or suites, one in each of eight tuoni or modes and one in the tuono trasportato, following the classification system in use at the time. Each suite opens with a free-style preludio and an allemanda followed by other late seventeenth-century dance forms such as the corrente, sarabanda, giga, minuetto and gavotta. Each successive movement is based on themes from the opening allemanda which gives each suite an overall sense of unity. In these works, Roncalli is clearly influenced by Bartolotti and De Visée. His exquisite melodic lines and elegant counterpoint are seamlessly combined with the strummed five-part chords which were still a defining feature of guitar music at the time. He makes imaginative use of the characteristic guitaristic devices such as arpeggii and campanelle – bell-like effects created by playing each note of a scale passage on different courses – and elaborate ornamentation.
Beautifully played by Austrian guitarist Bernhard Hoffstötter, whose previous recordings for Brilliant Classics (Francois Campion (95276) and The Baroque Lute in Vienna (95087)) received excellent reviews. Gramophone about his Weiss recording: "some of the most sympathetic and beautiful Weiss-playing yet committed to disc".