Grandi Project: “Celesti fiori”
The motets of Alessandro Grandi (1590 – 1630)
The composer and his works
Alessandro Grandi (Venice 1590 – Bergamo 1630) was one of the most important and famous composers of the ﬁrst half of the Seventeenth century. Only recently, thanks to R. Baroncini’s researches, some fundamental dates of his life as well as his prominent role in the musical life of his time have been rediscovered.
An extremely precocious talent, Grandi was nominated Maestro di cappella of the Accademia della Morte in Ferrara in 1610, starting a swift carreer that led him to ﬁll the position of Maestro di cappella at the Cathedral of Ferrara.
In 1617 he settled in Venice as he was hired as singer in San Marco and promoted singing teacher at the Ducal Seminary of San Marco the following year.
In the fall of 1620 he obtained the nomination to vice Maestro di Cappella as tassistant to Claudio Monteverdi.
In 1627 he was elected Maestro di cappella in Bergamo, at Santa Maria Maggiore Cathedral, where the array of musical forces allowed him to compose music on a larger scale.
He died at 40 during the plague of July 1630 along with his entire family.
Alessandro Grandi, described by musicologist Jerome Roche as “the most famous composer of motets of his times”, was undoubtedly the protagonist and – still according to Roche – the “dominating master of the genre of motet” during the ﬁrst twenty years of the Seventeenth century.
During his short life, he composed around three hundred works, mainly of sacred music, among which the collection of six books of motets (for two to eight voices) stands out. In that period, while the totally new forms of opera and instrumental music were establishing, sacred music was divided between the need to adopt a new language and the tendency to remain anchored to the rigour of stile antico. But the contamination between sacred and profane styles was inevitable: by the end of the ﬁrst decade, the barriers between the two styles had deﬁnitely collapsed. The motet as a genre was in great vogue in Italy during that period, as is testiﬁed by the great number of editions that circulated in those times (motets were performed outside of liturgical occasions as well); this is indeed a form that assimilates and integrates the style of seconda prattica and becomes a starting point for further experimentation of sacred vocal writing, even leading towards the cantata. Grandi’s motets illustrate the development of the concertato style and the advent of “seconda prattica” (second practice) in the sacred repertoire, consisting mostly in a declamatory style’s music, a voice treatment exalting the meaning of the text, an independent and imaginative basso continuo, the use of independent instruments: these are all elements that concur to make this music extremely expressive, rich in contrasts, colors and emotional intensity, charged with sensuality and pathos. The several reprints – also posthumous – in Venice and elsewhere of the various books of motets attest to the fame enjoyed by Grandi, who is immortalized next to Monteverdi in some rhymes from Venetia ediﬁcata by Giulio Strozzi (1626).* Grandi’s popularity soon extended over the Italian borders, especially in Germany thanks to the anthologies published by Johann Donfrid. In the 1640s numerous motets by Grandi were published in Antwerp, Berlin and Lipzig. Heinrich Schütz himself was inﬂuenced by Grandi (whom he met in Venice) in his Kleine geistliche Konzerte of 1636 and 1639, and in the composition of some parodies of the motets by Grandi. * ”If Grandi, then, if Monteverdi competing/ to clothe sacred or lascivious songs/with sweet song and such rare symphony/ were to have stood armed in that season,/ from their discords what distinguished and precious/ consonance would have been born within those statues/ where the sorceress in those summer ﬂames/ sought to delight those more bashful souls”.
* ”If Grandi, then, if Monteverdi competing/ to clothe sacred or lascivious songs/with sweet song and such rare symphony/ were to have stood armed in that season,/ from their discords what distinguished and precious/ consonance would have been born within those statues/ where the sorceress in those summer ﬂames/ sought to delight those more bashful souls”.
The program and the sources
This project of Accademia d’Arcadia is named after the ﬁfth book of motets by Alessandro GRANDI Celesti Fiori, and presents an anthology of pieces aiming to illustrate the manifold aspects of Grandi’s output, of which the most relevant part is constituted by the six books of motets for voices and continuo, and by the books of motets for one and two voices with instruments. Grandi’s motets indeed present every possible combination of voices, from solo aria to dialogue with independent instrumental parts, to double chorus with instruments, to vocal group of soloists with the ripieno of voices and instruments. To make a choice, the sources listed on the side have been consulted, which are all unpublished except for the ﬁrst and fourth book and some single motet. The texts of the motets are diﬀerentiated, a cospicous part consisting of verses the Song of Songs and from the Psalms. Musically, the variety of the ﬁrst books is impressive: chromaticism, ﬂourishing, alternating tempos and rhythms, are all masterfully used in function of the interpretation of the text. From the fourth book on (1616) Grandi develops melodic writing in a more solistic style, giving life to true dialogues such as Surge propera – a love duet on a text from the Song of Songs in which the inﬂuence of Monteverdi is evident – or as in Anima Christi (from the ﬁfth book) in which greatly expressive chromaticism and dissonances are displayed. The counterpointistic skills of the author concentrate in the motets for four, ﬁve and more voices: pieces for soloists or duets alternate with tutti sections, trio of soloists alternates with the typical vocal/instrumental quartet as ripieno, and numerous other inventive arrays. Of these, magniﬁcent examples are Veniat dilectus meus, (again taken from the Song of Songs) in which the couple of lovers are joined by two tenors whose function is of commenting choir, or Plorabo die ac nocte, the lament of the Virgin Mary with three male characters interposing, During the years he spent in Venice, Grandi turned his composing interest towards the soloist motet with obbligato instrumental sinfonias, a genre which preﬁgures the cantata, in which he has been an absolute innovator. Vulnerasti cor meum and Bone Jesu are among the best examples from the ﬁrst and second books of Motetti con strumenti. Lastly, the Psalm Dixit Dominus (the only non-motetisticpiece in this “ideal collection”) for double chorus and obligato trombones, was chosen as it represents a perfect example of the Venetian technique of cori spezzati.
Il Primo Libro de Motetti a due, tre, quattro, cinque et otto voci, con una Messa a quattro voci accommodati per cantarsi nell’Organo, Clavicembalo, Chitarrone o altro simile stromento. Con il Basso per sonare / di Alessandro Grandi 1610, 1613, 1617, 1618, 1621, 1628 (Venezia, Giacomo e Alessandro Vincenti)
Il Secondo Libro de Motetti a due, tre, et quattro voci con il suo Basso per sonar nell’Organo / Di Alessandro Grandi 1613, 2/1617, 1619, 1623, 1628 (Venezia, Giacomo e Alessandro Vincenti)
Il Terzo Libro de Motetti a due, tre, et quattro voci con le Letanie della B. V. a cinque voci et il suo Basso per l’Organo / di Alessandro Grandi 1614 (perduta), 2/1618, 1621, 1636 (Venezia, Giacomo e Alessandro Vincenti)
Il Quarto Libro de Motetti a due tre quattro et sette voci con il Basso continuo per sonar nell’Organo / Di Alessandro Grandi 1616, 1618, 1620, 1621, (Venezia, Giacomo e Alessandro Vincenti e Palermo, G.B. Maringo 1620)
Celesti ﬁori … : Libro Quinto de suoi Concerti a 2. 3. 4. voci Con alcune Cantilene nel ﬁne / del sig. Alessandro Grandi ; raccolte da Lunaro Simonetto … 1619, 2/1620, 1625, 1638 (Venezia, Bartolomeo Magni)
Il sesto libro de Motetti a due, tre, et quattro voci, con il basso per l’organo : opera vigesima / d’ Alessandro Grandi 1630, 2/1637 (Venezia, Alessandro Vincenti), 3/1640 (Anversa)
Mottetti a una et due voci con sinfonia d’istromenti partiti per cantare, et sonar co’l Chitarrone / Di Alessandro Grandi : Libro Primo 1629, 1637 (Venezia, Alessandro Vincenti)
Motetti a una, due, et quattro voci con sinfonie d’istromenti partiti per cantar, et sonar co’l Chitarrone : Libro Secondo / Di Alessandro Grandi 1625, 1637 (Venezia, Alessandro Vincenti)
Raccolta Terza di Leonardo Simonetti Musico nella Capella della Serenissima Repubblica. De Messa et Salmi del Sig. Alessandro Grandi et Gio. Chiozotto à 2. 3. 4. con Basso continuo 1630 (Venezia, Bartolomeo Magni).
I-Bc, Museo internazionale e Biblioteca della musica di Bologna – Bologna
I-Vgc, Biblioteca della Fondazione Giorgio Cini – Venezia
F-Pn, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Parigi
Repertoire and performers
Vocal and Instrumental Ensemble ACCADEMIA D’ARCADIA
Laura Martinez Boj, Alice Rossi
Maximiliano Baños, Sophia Patsi
Roberto Rilievi, Riccardo Pisani, Leo Moreno
Renato Cadel, Alessandro Ravasio
Instrumental Ensemble UTFASOL
Pietro Modesti, Jedediah Allen
Susanna Defendi, Valerio Mazzuconi, Fabio de Cataldo
Alessandra Rossi Lürig
|Quam pulchra es, CC/CATB||Motetti, Libro V
|Vidi spetiosam, ATTB||Motetti, Libro I
|O quam tu pulchra es, TTB||Motetti, Libro I|
|Veniat dilectus meus, CTB||Motetti, Libro V|
|Cupio dissolvi, CT||Motetti, Libro V|
|O quam tu pulchra es, TTB||Motetti, Libro I|
|In semita, TT||Motetti, Libro I
|Heu mihi, ATTB||Motetti, Libro II|
|O bone Jesu, ATTB||Motetti, Libro II|
|Salvum fac, CAT||Motetti, Libro II|
|Surge propera, CB||Motetti, Libro IV|
|Domine, ne in furore tuo, CATT||Motetti, Libro VI|
|O bone Jesu, ATTB||Motetti, Libro II
|Plorabo die ac nocte, CATB||Motetti, Libro IV|
|Nisi Dominus, CATB/ATTB||Salmi raccolti|