Giovanni Battista Buonamente: sonatas, canzonas and sinfonias / Helianthus Ensemble


The curious existence of a collection of seven wind instruments in a convent in Assisi Italy and the investigation into its history by a dogged musician lead to the realization of this very enjoyable Brilliant Classics CD of sonatas, canzonas and sinfonias by Giovanni Battista Buonamente (c.1595-1642). The collection of instruments was made up of a traverso (baroque flute), four cornetts (conical bored instruments with finger holes and a cup-shaped mouthpiece that was buzzed like a trumpet), a dulcian (the double reed predecessor of the bassoon) and a bass recorder.

The inquisitive musician and sometimes detective was Laura Pontecorvo, founder of the Helianthus ensemble heard on this recording. Ms. Pontecorvo's determined research ultimately uncovered an entry of 1704 in the Convent's accounting registers of the generous bequest of a collection of instruments by a music-loving Abbot. Why the Abbot chose to make his gift to this particular Convent was probably the renown of its music practice at the time, which in turn was likely because of the earlier arrival in 1633 of Giovanni Buonamente, composer, violinist and Friar. Buonamente left seven books of instrumental music, of which books IV - VII survived. These are for various combinations of wind and string instruments and they form the program for this engaging CD.

This is baroque chamber music. The Helianthus Ensemble perform on various combinations of anywhere from three to five instruments. The instruments they play are based upon the wind instruments in the Assisi collection, with added harpsichord, organ, cello, theorbo and violin. The only instrument used that might sound a little strange to modern ears is the cornetto, which you can hear in our audio sample.

This might be the best sound quality that I've heard from Brilliant Classics, and the musicians - who have appeared with Concerto Köln, the Amsteram Baroque Orchestra, Concerto Italiano and Le Concert des Nations - are superb.

Interviews provided with English subtitles and the music played here is from the CD.