Da Gesualdo a Piccinni
FROM GESUALDO TO PICCINNI
Musicians in Southern Italy from 1500 to 1700
Ever since I set out on my musical journey with the harpsichord in 1983, I have been eager to discover the past, my own musical origins, as I was born in Southern Italy, in a town called Altamura and located in the province of Bari, in the heart of the Alta Murgia plateaux.
It was like hearing a call coming from far away, the voice of so many of our musicians, that had been almost neglected and forgotten, and at best only mentioned in books dealing with the History of Music.
I began my research and realised that, although my project was still in embryo, neither structured nor well-defined, there was a “red thread” – represented by the land, by the South – connecting it to the following authors: Carlo Gesualdo, prince of Venosa, Rocco Rodio from Bari, Giovanni Maria Trabaci from Irsina, Antonio Valente (from Apulia, possibly), Giovanni Salvatore from Benevento, Bernardo Storace from Sicily; and, as I proceeded, I discovered some real musical treasures scattered on the map of my native land, Southern Italy, from Apulia to Basilicata, from Campania to Sicily (formerly the Kingdom of Naples). And so I conceived the idea of giving voice, through the sound of my harpsichord, to these great composers that preceded us: by trying to imagine what in 1600 Irsina, the ancient Montepeloso and birthplace of Giovanni Maria Trabaci, could be like; or Bari at the end of the sixteenth century, when Rocco Rodio was HGH a member of the musical Chapel of Saint Nicola’s Basilica; or by trying to trace the origins of Antonio Valente, that blind musician who lived in the sixteenth century and whose birthplace is unknown.
Thinking about it, the land of Bari is full of people named Valente and probably he was considered to be “ … per antichità napolitano … ” (“a long-standing Neapolitan”, translator’s note) owing to the exodus of many musicians to Naples, that stood out as a prominent cultural centre for many centuries – a fact comparable to today’s brain drain. However, the possibility that Antonio Valente was born in Apulia cannot be ruled out.
Moreover, discovering that Piccinni, already renowned for his operas, had written some pieces for the harpsichord prompted me to undertake a musical as well as historical journey from Bari (his birthplace) to Paris (where he was welcomed and awarded great honours). In the Bibliothèque National I found as many as two printed copies of “Three Sonatas and a Toccata for the Harpsichord”, dating back to 1775 and composed by Niccolò Piccinni.
The copies were sent to press by the author himself and today, after my editing, they are being published in an updated version by the Florestano Publishing House from Bari.
This recording, dedicated to the Great Musicians of our past, is one of the first steps in this project, through which I committed myself to spreading, among contemporaries, the knowledge of this Music that I love, for its beauty, purity and great expressiveness.
Menuetto (Niccolò Piccinni)
Toccata (Niccolò Piccinni)