Alessandro Piccinini

Piccinini was born in Bologna into a musical family: his father Leonardo Maria Piccinini taught lute playing to Alessandro as well as his brothers Girolamo (d. 1615) and Filippo (d. 1648). He held appointments at the Este court in Ferrara (from 1582 to 1597) and with Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini, papal legate at Bologna and Ferrara. Piccinini died around 1638, probably in Bologna.

He is best known for his two volumes of lute music: Intavolatura di Liuto et di Chitarrone, libro primo (Bologna, 1623) and Intavolaturo di Liuto (Bologna, 1639), the latter published posthumously by his son Leonardo Maria Piccinini. The 1623 collection is of particular importance because of Piccinini's lengthy preface, which includes a detailed manual on performance, as well as claims to have invented the archlute (Piccinini also made important modifications to the chitarrone). Piccinini concentrated on toccatas, courantes and galliards, as well as different kinds of variations.

Year / Artwork Title Importance Medium
1601 Works for Theorbo 4.50 stars CD
Madrigals and arias accompanied by a variant of the lute, in uncanny realism and surround. The theorbo is a 14-stringed variant of the lute family. The instrument utilizes complex tunings, with peg arrangements that allow for a broad tonal palette not possible with the traditional lute. Giulio Caccini and Alessandro Piccinini were both virtuoso theorbo players and court musicians in late sixteenth century Florence. Caccini was renowned for his mastery of Bel Canto singing, and usually accompanied himself and other vocalists on the theorbo in programs of madrigals and arias. Piccinini wrote and performed on the theorbo, and was one of the innovators in perfecting its design.

The performers here, Fred Jacobs and Johannette Zomer, are masters of this early music, and Channel Classics gives us here another sensational disc of this little-played repertory. Listening to this disc is a revelation - from the opening notes, you're transported to the recording venue, and the performances unfold before you with uncanny realism. This is what really great surround sound is all about - no cheesy gimmicks, just a totally accurate recreation of the musical event. The program alternates between Caccini's accompanied vocal works and Piccinini ' s exceptional instrumentals. Johannette Zomer's truly liquid vocals are pure magic as she sweetly sings Caccini ' s madrigals, and Fred Jacobs ' mastery of the theorbo is made evident with every selection. Why these works aren ' t better known is totally beyond me. This superb disc is entertaining, exceptionally well recorded, and is an audiophile's dream. Five stars - very highly recommended