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.

Album Overview

Italian composer Giovanni Battista Buonamente, a member of the Franciscan order, gained renown throughout Europe as a violinist, singer and choirmaster. He began his career as the Gonzaga court in Mantua, later becoming a chamber musician at the Viennese court of Ferdinand II and his final post was as chapel master at the Sacro Convento in Assisi, where he remained until his death in 1643 and his compositions many characteristics of the early Italian Baroque.

This disc, inspired by a collection of instruments that were left to the Sacro Convento by Abbot Rivi in 1704, includes a selection of pieces from volumes IV, VI and VII of Buonamente’s instrumental music. The first three volumes of this collection were lost, and the surviving volumes of the original collection were destroyed by fire at the Wroclaw library in Poland, where they had been housed. The pieces on this disc were chosen with the intent of using the instruments that Abbot Rivi had bequeathed to the Sacro Convento, along with the violin, theorbo, cello, organ and harpsichord, which records show were also present at the convent.

Laura Pontecorvo, a baroque flute specialist, has played first flute with the Concerto Italiano and regularly collaborates with ensembles such as Accademia Bizantina, Divino Sospiro, Europa Galante and Accordone, L’Arte dell’arco. She has performed as a soloist all over the world and has recorded for several record labels including Opus 111 and Stradivarius. She is joined on the recording by the Helianthus Ensemble.

Other information:
– Recorded in 2012.
– Giovanni Battista Buonamente started his career in his native Mantua, left for the Viennese Court of Ferdinand II and finally settled in Assisi as Chapel Master of the Sacro Convento.
The works, instrumental sonatas and canzonas, are in the early Italian Baroque style, and offer several dance forms like Brando, Gagliarda and Corrente.
– The booklet notes tell the interesting story about the composer, and the fascinating quest for the manuscripts.


Composer: Giovanni Battista Buonamente

Giovanni Battista Buonamente (ca. 1595 – 1642) was an Italian composer and violinist in the early Baroque era. He served the Gonzagas in Mantua until about 1622, and from about 1626 to 1630 served the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor in Vienna. Notably, in 1627 he played for the coronation festivities in Prague of Ferdinand III, son of the emperor.

For more information, please visit

Flute: Laura Pontecorvo

Laura studied in Rome with Marianne Eckstein. From 1980- 82 she was on F.Vester’s course at the “Den Haag Conservatory” (Holland). In 1989 she obtained the Higher Diplome of the “Accademia Superiore di Biella” with P.L.Graf, and in 1991 the Diplome of ”Accademia di S.Cecilia” of Rome for chamber music with F. Ayo. Laura’s interest in baroque music led her to study baroque and classic flute with Claudio Rufa and Marc Hantai.

For more information, please visit
Click here for her YouTube Channel.

Performers: Helianthus Ensemble

Laura Pontecorvo, traverso di Assisi
Josué Meléndez Peláez, cornett & cornettino di Assisi
Olivia Centurioni, violin & viola
Elena Biachi, dulcian
Marco Ceccato, cello
Evangelina Mascardi, theorbo & baroque guitar
Guido Morini, harpsichord & organ


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