Venice: Celesti Fiori - Madrigals, Motets & Cantatas by Alessandro Grandi

February 2010

Feb 12 2010 8:00 pm
First Lutheran Church
Palo Alto CA

Feb 13 2010 8:00 pm 
St. Mark's Episcopal Church
Berkeley CA

Feb 14 2010 4:00 pm
St. Mark's Lutheran Church
San Francisco CA

Lecture by Artistic Artistic Director Warren Stewart 45 minutes before each performance.

On Valentine's Day weekend, Magnificat will perform songs about love – both spiritual and worldly – by Alessandro Grandi in a program that features soprano Laura Heimes. Grandi was a prolific and influential composer, well respected during his life, but rarely performed today – just the sort of composer Magnificat loves to explore! 

Concerts to Include Modern Premieres of the First Cantatas

In his 1620 collection Cantade et Arie, Grandi used to the term “cantata” to distinguish three settings of strophic poetry for soprano and continuo. Each of the works – Amor altri si duol, Vanne vattene Amor and Udito han pur i Dei – represent a compositional strategy identified by musicologists as “strophic bass” cantatas, an example of strophic variation with which many composers were experimenting at the time.

Sadly, the only copy of the copy of Grandi’s historic 1620 collection thought to survive into the 20th century was destroyed in the Second World War. Prior to the war several scholars had written about the works, though it is unlikely that any were ever performed. However, another copy of the print was part of massive collection of 16th and 17th century prints from the music scholar Godfrey Arkwright purchased by a Spanish collector at an auction at Sotheby’s in London in 1939. Recently Giulia Giovani, a musicologist in Rome, has identified the print and has graciously agreed to provide transcriptions for Magnificat's concerts.

Born in 1586 most likely in Ferrara, Grandi may have studied with Giovanni Gabrieli in Venice. He held several positions in Ferrara as maestro di cappella at different cathedrals and academies in Ferrara before winning a post at the Baislica of San Marco in Venice in 1617. Eventually he became vice maestro di capella to Claudio Monteverdi. In 1627, he accepted the position of maestro di capella in nearby Bergamo where he succumbed to the plague that struck Northern Italy in 1630.

Grandi was one of the most popular composers of his day; his works were published throughout Italy, Germany and Holland and continued to be reprinted long after his death. Though he wrote in many genres, he is most noted for his vocal chamber works that often incorporated violins and defined the concertato style that was developing in the early decades of the 17th century. His unfailing melodic gift, coupled with his daring use of chromaticism and harmonic language, gives his music an immediate emotional appeal – both intimate and powerful – that sounds fresh even four centuries later. The program takes its title from a collection of motets Grandi published in 1625.

The program will also feature violinists Rob Diggins and David Wilson, playing instrumental chamber music published in Venice during Grandi's tenure at San Marco. The first decades of the 17th century saw the emergence of virtuoso instrumental music in the form of sonatas, canzoni, and other forms for one, two or more solo violins above a basso continuo. Magnificat's program will include music by colleagues of Grandi and Monteverdi in Venice like Massimiliano Neri, organist at San Marco, and Biagio Marini and Dario Castello, who were prominent musicians in Venice at the time.

Listen to a live performance of Magnificat performing Biagio Marini's Sonata sopra la Monica:

Marini - Sonata sopra la Monica


Magnificat will be performing several works on this program that have not been performed since the 17th century. Building on the seminal work of the late Jerome Roche, the American Musicological Society has announced plans to publish the complete wokrs of Grandi, a multi-volume effort that will not be published for several years. We are grateful that the General Editor of the edition and Magnificat Advisory Board member Prof. Jeffrey Kurtzman has generously provided facsimiles of many of the as yet unpublished works for Magnificat's performances.

free music download from Magnificat

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Laura Heimes, soprano

Rob Diggins, violin

David Wilson, violin

Warren Stewart, violoncello

David Tayler, theorbo

Hanneke van Proosdij, harpsichord


Read a Biography of Grandi from the upcoming complete works edition.