Giovanni Legrenzi (c1626-1690)

Giovanni Legrenzi was important as a composer of operas, of which most were produced for the Venice opera houses. His most esteemed work , Il Giustino, was however also performed in eight other cities in the period 1683 -97. After Legrenzi’s appointment as maestro di capella at San Marco in 1685, he returned mainly to church music, producing oratorios, a mass, motets and psalm settings, some employing large forces. Earlier in his career, he published several collections of instrumental music, and is credited with developing the form of the sonata in a way which influenced later composers such as Torelli, Vivaldi and even Bach.

Leg 1

Three Cantatas for solo Bass

from Cantate e canzonette, 1676

for bass (G-e') and bc

Price: £ 7.50

Cessa d'esser amante.
Pene, non mi lasciate.
Sorgea dal sen di Lete.

Legrenzi wrote cantatas and canzonette for each of the voice ranges. These pieces are three of the six for the bass voice in this collection. They are beautifully written for the bass voice and do not present any great technical difficulty.

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Leg 2

A Cantata and 2 Canzonettas

from Cantate e canzonette, 1676

 for solo bass (F-e') and bc

Price: £ 6.50

Amore e virtù.
Son canuto e d'un bambin.
Il mio cor non e con me.

These are the remaining three pieces for the bass voice from the 1676 collection. The cantata Amore e virtù amusingly describes Love and Virtue in conflict, each striving to gain ascendancy over the poets heart. The two canzonettas are lighthearted portrayals of the results of falling in love. As in much of Legrenzi, the music is enlivened by the many points of imitation between the basso continuo and the voice.

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Leg 3

Two Cantatas from the Munich MS

Edited by Barbara Sachs

for bass (E-e') and bc

Price: £ 6.90

Dal calore agitato
A piè d'eccelso monte

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Leg 4

Che non fa, che non può


for soprano (d\'-f\'\') and continuo

Price: £ 5.00

Legrenzi\'s collections of secular vocal music appeared in 1676 (Cantate e canzonette) and 1678 (Idee armoniche, and Echi di riverenza).  The present cantata appears in the first of these, containing works written for the voice-ranges soprano or tenor, alto and bass.  

The volume is dedicated to Giovanni Giuseppe Orsi. The dedication refers to the nobleman’s familiarity with Legrenzi’s previous works, and this underlines his connection with aristocratic patrons: one of these was Ippolito Bentivoglio, who contributed the libretto for at least one of his operas.  As Count Orsi was himself a considerable poet, it is interesting to speculate that he may have made some contribution to the texts of these cantatas of Legrenzi, whose authorship has not been established.

This delightful work is both humorous and witty; the poem’s racy lines with internal rhymes – “A bocca che ride a un occhio ch’uccide” are set with corresponding humour by the composer with syllabic settings in 12/8 or 6/8 time. Its alternating arioso and recitativo passages are constantly enlivened with little points of imitation between the continuo and the voice parts.


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