Three from ECM

To listen to this show, you must first LOG IN. If you have already logged in, but you are still seeing this message, please SUBSCRIBE or UPGRADE your subscriber level today.

Program: #12-19   Air Date: Apr 30, 2012

From the incomparable Hilliard Ensemble performing Gesualdo to the evolution of the saltarello to John Holloway's look at the evolution of the early Italian baroque.

NOTE: All of the music from this program is from recordings on the ECM label. For more information, you may consult:


I. Dario Castello/Giovanni Battista Fontana: Sonate concertate in stil moderno (John Holloway, violin/Lars Ulrik Mortensen, harpsichord/Jane Gower, dulcian). ECM CD 2106.

About Dario Castello and Giovanni Battista Fontana, two Italian composers from the turn of the 17th century, musical scholarship hasn’t much to tell us. We know as little about Castello, who was leading an ensemble at St. Mark’s around 1629, as we do about the exact birth and death dates of Fontana, who came from Brescia and probably perished during the 1630 outbreak of plague in Padua. Yet there are a number of surviving works by both men that reveal them to have been remarkable composers for the violin. Two books by Castello of sonate concertate in one to four parts, in stil moderno with continuo, were printed during the composer’s lifetime. In his new recording violinist John Holloway has selected a number of sonatas from this collection to couple with similar works by Fontana, some originally for violin as well as some conceived for other string or wind instruments. Along with solo violin sonatas, Holloway has chosen six of these sonatas for violin and basso continuo that can be regarded as precursors of the later trio sonata or even as early examples of that genre. They also serve as proof that there is still undiscovered territory on the early music map.

Dario Castello

  • Sonata Settima à due. Sopran e Fagotto (I)
  • Sonata Prima à Sopran Solo (II)
  • Sonata Ottava à due. Sopran e Fagotto (I)

Giovanni Battista Fontana

  • Sonata Seconda Violino Solo
  • Sonata Nona Fagotto e Violino
  • Sonata Terza Violino Solo
  • Sonata Decima Fagotto e Violino
  • Sonata Quinta Violino Solo
  • Sonata Duodecima Fagotto e Violino
  • Sonata Sesta Violino Solo

Dario Castello

  • Sonata Settima à due. Sopran e Fagotto (II)
  • Sonata Seconda à Sopran Solo (II)
  • Sonata Ottava à due. Sopran e Fagotto (II)


II. Gesualdo: Quinto Libro de Madrigali (The Hilliard Ensemble). ECM CD 2175.


An aristocrat who forged an idiosyncratic style of musical expression, Don Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa, was one of those composers in music history who can truly be described as being ahead of his time: the creator of a harmonic language bold almost to the point of anarchy, whose every unpredictable interval was viewed with suspicion by the opponents of musical autonomy and guardians of liturgically based sacred music. A friend of Torquato Tasso and founder of his own academy, to which many leading madrigalists of the 16th and early 17th centuries belonged, Gesualdo was a highly expressive composer and a virtuoso performer on the bass lute. Yet his chromatic progressions baffled his contemporaries and had to wait until the 19th-century era of High Romantic period to find artistic parallels. Among his most important compositions are six books of five-part madrigals dating from between 1594 and 1611. The last two books in particular – this recording by the Hilliard Ensemble brings new performances of Book 5 – display his dissonant musical language with its extreme harmonic disruptions, striking tempo contrasts and a distinctly modern feel for drama. The Hilliard Ensemble’s expressive singing, here also featuring soprano Monika Mauch and countertenor David Gould, conjures up that sound described by the great music historian Hans Redlich as growing out of “the antithesis between extravagant/debauched eroticism and self-castigating longing for death”.


  • Gioite voi col canto ("Rejoice in sing")
  • S’io non miro non moro ("I die if I do not look")
  • Itene, o miei sospiri ("Go now, sighs of mine")
  • Dolcissima mia vita ("Sweetest life of mine")
  • O dolorosa gioia ("O painful joy")
  • Qual fora, donna ("Why not utter, my lady, a sweet 'Alas'"
  • Felicissimo sonno ("Most happy dream")
  • Se vi duol il mio duolo ("If my grief pains you")
  • Occhi del mio cor vita ("Eyes, life of my heart")
  • Languisce al fin ("He whom parts from this life")
  • Mercè grido piangendo ("Have pity on me!")
  • O voi, troppo felici ("O you, far too fortunate")
  • Correte, amanti, a prova ("Vie, lovers, in speed")
  • Asciugate i begli occhi ("Dry your beautiful eyes")
  • Tu m’uccidi, o crudele ("You are killing me")
  • Deh, coprite il bel seno ("O cover your beautiful bosom")
  • Poichè l’avida sete (Prima parte) ("Since your avid thirst")
  • Ma tu, cagion (Seconda parte) ("And you, source of the grievous sorrow")
  • O tenebroso giorno ("O darkest day")
  • Se tu fuggi, io non resto ("If you flee I will not stay behind")
  • T’amo, mia vita ("I love you, my life")


III. Saltarello (Garth Knox, viola, fiddle, viola d'amore/Agnès Vesterman, cello/Sylvain Lemêtre, percussion). ECM 2157.


Many instrumental compositions in music history, even if they’re called sonata, suite, sinfonia or even fantasia, are essentially dances or else exhibit an unmistakable dancelike character. Not a few examples of so-called art music also have their origins in the folk music of a particular country or make use of popular or folk elements. Under the title “Saltarello”, a 14th-century fast Italian dance in ? time that survives today as a folk dance, viola player Garth Knox couples works stretching from the 12th century to the present day and demonstrates how fragile, even arbitrary, is the line drawn between art and folk music, but also that between old music and new sounds. Taking up fiddle, viola and viola d’amore, accompanied by cellist Agnès Vesterman and percussionist Sylvain Lemêtre, Knox presents his own works alongside music by Hildegard von Bingen; he juxtaposes the exquisite Renaissance sounds of John Dowland against pieces by Kaija Saariaho that make subtle use of electronics, and sets arrangements of traditional melodies and anonymous dance movements against Vivaldi’s D minor Viola d’amore Concerto – a sensuous survey of 1000 years of musical events.

Black Brittany


  • Henry Purcell

    Music for a while

  • Antonio Vivaldi

    Concerto for viola d’amore in d-minor RV 393

    I Allegro

    II Largo

    III Presto

  • Antonio Vivaldi

    Fuga libre for viola solo

  • Hildegard von Bingen

    Ave, generosa

    Guillaume de Machaut

    Complainte ‘Tels rit au main qui au soir pleure’

  • Kaija Saariaho

    Vent nocturne:

    I. Sombres miroirs (Dark Mirrors)

  • John Dowland

    Flow my tears

  • Kaija Saariaho

    Vent nocturne:
    II. Soupirs de l’obscur (Breaths of the Obscure)

  • Three Dances:
    Saltarello I – Ghaetta – Saltarello II

Composer Info

Dario Castello, Giovanni Battista Fontana, Don Carlo Gesualdo, Henry Purcell, Antonio Vivaldi, Hildegard von Bingen, Kaija Saariaho, John Dowland

CD Info

ECM CD 2175, ECM CD 2106, ECM 2157