Madrigals and Sonatas by Giovanni Zamboni Romano


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Little is known about Giovanni Zamboni (called "the Roman") except that he was recognized in the first half of the 18th century as a virtuoso of plucked- string instruments such as the lute, the mandolin, the theorbo, the mandore and the harpsichord. In Italy, he was one of the last to write for the lute; his twelve sonatas published in Lucca in 1718 compose the final book of pieces printed in tablature for this instrument.

It could be postulated that these sonatas, written in the manner of Corelli, influenced perhaps Sylvius Leopold Weiss, the last great German lutenist, who spent two years living in Rome. Stylistically, they fall into the international Baroque sphere that Bach so ideally represents and of which Zamboni's music reminds us. The prelude of his eighth sonata is very similar to the first prelude in the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I, of which the manuscript was completed in 1722. Who inspired whom? Very clever is the person who can answer the question!

But Zamboni is more than a composer for lute; he left a legacy of two cycles of 12 madrigals for four voices, written with great inventive richness. After an unprecedented flowering of the polyphonic madrigal at the beginning of the 17th century, it disappeared towards the middle of the century to give way to more demonstrative and easily-accessible forms.

A "new wave" of madrigal writing surged in Rome at the end of the 17th century, the impetus coming from erudite circles in which figured the likes of Alessandro Scarlatti. Anchored in an older tradition (in particular, the poetic choices of Monteverdi and Gesualdo), this style of writing resulted in some audacious and inventive treasures for which one would search in vain in the contemporary vocal music which carried Italian opera towards the galant style.

In this movement, Zamboni certainly played an important role, as witnessed by the recommendation of the great Chapel Master of Saint John of Laterano, Girolamo Chiti, who said in substance that he "had the honor of studying the first and second books of madrigals by the very humble and dignified virtuoso Giovanni Zamboni" and found there "a deep knowledge of counterpoint and of the expression of the words' meanings, a synthesis of the rigor of the old school and of the chromatic expressivity in the modern style." This work, he wrote, "merits praise, esteem and approval."

  • Olga Pitarch, soprano
  • Lucile Richardot, alto
  • Jeffrey Thompson, tenor
  • Emmanuel Vistorky, bass
  • Matthieu Boutineau, harpsichord
  • Charles-Edouard Fantin, archlute
  • Christine Plubeau, bass viol
  • Marco Horvat, theorbo, lira

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Translations by Sally Gordon Mark

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