Following the recent, essential compendium of great organ music on 50 CD (BC95310), Brilliant Classics turn to a valuable but lesser-known light in the early history of the organ, Giovanni Salvatore. Active in the middle of the 17th century, this Neapolitan musician was greatly esteemed during his lifetime. One contemporary commentator even placed him above Frescobaldi on the grounds that he could compose fine vocal works without confusing their style with organ music.
Salvatore’s vocal music is still almost unknown to us, but perhaps this disc of his organ masses will prompt the rediscovery of an individual voice working within in the southern Italian tradition of the early 17th century as represented by Mayone, Trabaci and Frescobaldi, though Salvatore is more liberal than his models and contemporaries with musical devices that may now sound modern to us, such as chromaticism, sharp dissonances and striking harmonic progressions: this is organ music fully worthy of the Neapolitan style: virtuosic and unpredictable. They are performed here as they were initially intended, with a small choir intoning the individual verses of the Mass Proper, between Salvatore’s elaborated musical commentaries on the Gregorian chanted text.
The recording was made in three different Italian churches, one for each of Salvatore’s three surviving organ masses: St. Peter Martyr Church, in Rieti; Ss. Trinity Church, Verona; and the Church of the Visitation, Rome. The organist is Federico del Sordo, who has made several well-received recordings of lesser-known music from the Italian late-Renaissance and Baroque periods, including organ masses by Merulo (BC94145) and chamber music by Tessarini (BC94787) and Veracini (BC94822).
Giovanni Salvatore lived from 1620 till 1688, living and working as organist in Naples. His most important work is the collection of “Ricercari a Quattro voci, Canzoni, Canzoni Francesi, Toccate, et Versi per rispondere nelle Messe con l’Organo al Choro”.
In the 17th century the Roman Catholic liturgy accepted certain instrumental interludes during the service of the mass, either as an addition or as a replacement of certain parts of the mass. No doubt this practice inspired composers to write extensive and elaborate works for the organ in which they could show their compositional skills.
Salvatore’s style is typical of the Neapolitan liturgy during the Baroque: a rich vocal tapestry of opulent vocal and instrumental polyphony.
Organist Federico Del Sordo and the Nova Schola Gregoriana conducted by Alberto Turco are specialists in this specific repertoire, they already recorded the Organ Alternatim Masses by Merulo for Brilliant Classics (BC95145). They use a historic 1678 organ by Giovanni Boccanegra, the specifications of which are included in the booklet.