Tarquinio Merula (1594/5-1665): Three Pieces from Il Quarto Libro Delle Canzoni

Italian composer, organist, and violinist, Tarquinio Merula was born in Cremona, and spent part of his youth working in Poland. Of Merula’s two published books of canzonas in 1637 and 1651 respectively, Book IV belongs to the latter group. Consisting of 28 pieces for a variety of instrumental combinations, including two violins and basso continuo, two violins, one violoncello and basso continuo, or one violin, one violoncello and basso continuo, etc.

This recording consists of three canzonas written for two violins with basso continuo. The contrapuntal melody creates the sense of the two violins chasing and competing with each other, while harmonic passages requiring two violins to play in perfect unison, merging their sounds as one, further put a test to the performers’ partnership and understanding. Even though they are short and simple in form, the pieces contain the condensed musical essence of more grandeur works, demonstrating the delicate possibilities of miniatures and Merula’s superb compositional technique, representing the epitome of his art.

Crafted by father Andrea (c. 1505-1577) and son Antonio (c. 1540-1607) of the Amati family of Cremona, the instruments on this recording represent two of the earliest works of the Cremonese school. With these instruments going along with the earliest music nurtured in Cremona, such combination retains a deeper historical significance.

Text and recordings are provided by Music Digital Archives Center, National Taiwan Normal University (Digital Violin Archive Project of Chi Mei Museum)