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Ceci n'est pas un concert - a trap!

One of the fun characteristics of our work in early music is all the decision making that is necessary to be able to play what we play. With time, many of these decisions become second nature, and we (can) become unaware of the choices we make, or even end up repeating what we once did or heard or saw - which can ultimately become a trap!

Exhibit number 1: the title page of Diogenio Bigaglia's set of XII sonatas (which were published in Amsterdam in the 1720's) tells us that they are meant for "Violino Solo o Sia Flauto", violin or 'flauto'. 'Flauto' in this case means the recorder and, in 99.9% of cases, 'flauto' means an alto recorder. Because of their range, which often goes below the lowest note on the alto recorder (F), for many decades recorder players have played Bigaglia's sonatas on the soprano recorder (in C). In principle there is nothing wrong with that - soprano recorders obviously existed then. But, they were usually referred to as 'flautino', a small 'flauto'. So what instrument could Bigaglia actually have had in mind?

During Inês' PhD research she studied Italian Baroque recorders in several museums, and had a few of those original instruments copied. One such instrument was a voice flute, a slightly larger and lower alto in D, made by N. Castel. Castel figures as one of the woodwind makers active in the city of Venice in the first half of the 18th century.

During our 2018 residency in Venice we decided to try our options in a mini experiment. Here is a homemade recording of one of Bigaglia's most famous sonata, played on two copies of 18th-century Venetian recorders: a soprano by D. Perosa and a voice flute by N. Castel:

Oh, we hadn't mentioned yet that Bigaglia was a Benedictine monk, violinist and composer, active in Venice between c. 1676 - c. 1745. This means that at the time Bigaglia was active and writing these sonatas voice flutes were around in Venice. What a coincidence, Robin!

Curious to hear the result of our decisions regarding this experiment? Here's another Bigaglia sonata, from our CD Anonimo Venexian: We hope you enjoy!

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© 2020 by Inês d'Avena & Claudio Ribeiro.

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