In my last post, I tackled the issue of locating Baroque recorder repertoire outside of the way overplayed Handel and Telemann sonatas, recommending Ignazio Sieber’s Six Sonatas as one excellent option. Now I shall elaborate further on this subject and make yet another fine recommendation: Nicola Fiorenza’s short and charming Concerto in A minor for Alto Recorder, 2 Violins, and Basso Continuo.
I first learned about this piece in last year’s Christmas flier from Von Huene Workshop, where it was advertised amongst their “New and Noteworthy” items. At the time, I wanted to branch out of sonatas into concertos, and while I was considering Vivaldi and Telemann, I also wished to find some unusual options. Reading that this was the first time the piece was published in urtext format, I was excited at the prospective of playing a relatively obscure piece and immediately ordered the recorder/continuo reduction edition. I could not be more pleased by what I heard upon initially perusing the piece in my head and subsequently sight-reading through it.
Note: The above video does not include the slow, haunting first movement included in my Girolamo Edition purchased from Von Huene. Not sure why ….
The historical and biographical details behind this piece are even equally obscure as the piece itself. Although about thirty of Fiorenza’s composition manuscripts are kept in the library of Naples’ Conservatory of San Pietro a Majella, not much is known about the life and activity of this unheard-of Italian Baroque composer. According to the preface in my Giorlamo Edition, copyright 2009:
“He was born around 1700 and spent his working life in Naples where he died in 1764. He played the violin at the Royal Chapel. From 1743 to 1762 he was the teacher of string instruments at the conservatory Santa Maria di Loreto. He was dismissed because of recurring violent behaviour towards his students.”
The A Minor Concerto which is the subject of this post is one of four concertos which Fiorenza composed for recorder and strings. A true, fine example of Italian Baroque music, this piece contains both lovely Venetian cantabile lines in the slower movements and lively, quick rhythms in the fast movements, making it a prime choice for both the enjoyment of the audience and the performer. The individual level of the piece itself is not that difficult, thus opening up a wide variety of possibilities for its pedagogical usage and performance.
Due to its simplicity in level, this little concerto is perfectly playable for intermediate-level recorder players upwards. About on the same difficulty level as the Handel (excluding the D Minor sonata) or Barsanti sonatas, it would make an ideal “starter” concerto for recorder students making the jump from sonata repertoire to concertos. For more advanced and professional players, this piece would make a great repertoire “filler” and an excellent “light” piece for serious performance. Indeed, when interspersed with more difficult, longer pieces and/or used as an encore, the Fiorenza A Minor would undoubtedly capture the audience’s attention
Again, the Giorlamo edition in my possession is the first everurtext/modern edition of this piece available. As was with the Amadeus edition of the Sieber sonatas, this edition of the Fiorenza can be purchased at Von Huene Workshop, though it is not listed on their online sheet music database. A quick call or email to the shop, however, should have the piece on the way to your front door soon:
Finally, I must mention that, like the Sieber, this charming little concerto fully captured the hearts of both my early music mentors. It first won the approval of my voice teacher/continuo player (also a musicologist specializing in Baroque) when I played through it one day with him. He is generally very picky as to what pieces he likes, not “going for” the more cute and catchy numbers, but he found this Fiorenza most “fun” and “well-written.” Then I played the first movement for my recorder teacher, who had never hear of it. Upon my completion of it, he remarked how “lovely” it was and how I should consider it for serious performance.
Hence, based upon both the testimony of my mentors and all the reasons mentioned above, I highly recommend the Fiorenza Concerto in A Minor to all serious recorder players and teachers. Extremely charming and versatile for both performance and pedagogical usage, it most definitely should be included in such players’ libraries. So don’t hesitate: Get yourself a copy and start learning it right now!