The Gonzaga Band

The Gonzaga Band was formed by cornettist Jamie Savan in 1997, with a mission to explore the intimate relationship between vocal and instrumental performance practice in the Early Modern period. The ensemble takes its name from the ducal family of Mantua: the Gonzagas were powerful and influential patrons of the arts in the late Renaissance, who employed Claudio Monteverdi as their maestro della musica at the turn of the seventeenth century. Monteverdi wrote some of his most innovative music for the Gonzagas: his third, fourth and fifth books of madrigals, the operas Orfeo and Arianna, and of course the Vespers of 1610.

Performing most often as a chamber ensemble with a core of soprano voice, cornett and keyboards, and expanding on occasion according to the particular requirements of each programme, The Gonzaga Band is thus able to perform in a variety of combinations, ranging from a trio to a full period-instrument orchestra and vocal consort. The Gonzaga Band is renowned for its innovative programming, underpinned by cutting-edge research, which continually shines new light on the repertoire and its interpretation. The Gonzaga Band has previously released two CDs on the Chandos label to international critical acclaim: Sacred Garland (2009) and Chamber Vespers (2011); 2018 sees the release of their latest recording, Venice 1629, on Resonus Classics.

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People

Jamie Savan – director, cornett / mute cornett

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Jamie Savan is a member of His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts, as well as the founder-director of the Gonzaga Band. He is also active as a solo recitalist, and as an orchestral principal with the English Baroque Soloists under Sir John Eliot Gardiner. He has performed with many other of the world’s leading period-instrument ensembles, including Concerto Palatino, Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, and Bach Collegium Japan to name but a few, and continues to be in great demand as a freelance player of the cornett, mute cornett, and the oft-neglected ‘lizard’ or tenor cornett. Jamie’s main passion is in discovering previously unknown music in old manuscripts and original printed part-books, and in bringing it to life though the process of transcribing, editing, performing and recording – both with The Gonzaga Band and with HMSC for which he has researched and directed a number of innovative new programmes. Jamie is lucky enough to combine his performing career with teaching and research as a Senior Lecturer in Music at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

 

Faye Newton – soprano

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Faye Newton enjoys a diverse repertoire spanning some six centuries and embracing many aspects of the solo voice, from intimate lute-song recitals and consort singing to baroque opera and collaborations with some of the leading orchestras and choirs on the European scene for historically-informed performance. For much of the past decade she has performed as a soloist with the New London Consort, most notably at the BBC Proms and in Jonathan Miller’s productions of Monteverdi’s ‘Orfeo’, and Purcell’s ‘Dido and Aeneas’, delighting audiences across four continents. Faye can often be heard performing solo-voice Bach Cantatas with the Feinstein Ensemble at St Martin in the Fields and the Southbank Centre, London. Faye has a particular love for the music of Monteverdi and his contemporaries and in addition to her work with The Gonzaga Band she features on Andrew Parrott’s recording of Monteverdi’s Orfeo released in 2013, singing the role of ‘Euridice’ opposite Charles Daniels in the title role. Other notable recordings include ‘The Language of Love’, songs of the troubadour and trouvères with Duo Trobairitz, released by Hyperion and selected as American Record Guide Choice of 2007; music by Giovanni Battista Grillo with His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts; and a recent recording of English rounds and grounds entitled ‘Twenty waies upon the Bels’ with Pellingmans’ Saraband.

 

Steven Devine – harpsichord / organ

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Steven Devine enjoys a busy career as a music director and keyboard player working with some of the finest musicians. Since 2007 Steven has been the harpsichordist with London Baroque in addition to his position as Co-Principal keyboard player with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. He is also the principal keyboard player for the Gonzaga Band, Apollo and Pan, the Classical Opera Company and performs regularly with many other groups around Europe. He has recorded over thirty discs with other artists and made six solo recordings. His recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations (Chandos) has received critical acclaim – including Gramophone Magazine describing it as “among the best”. Volumes 1 and 2 of the complete harpsichord works of Rameau (Resonus) have both received five-star reviews from BBC Music Magazine and Steven’s new recording of Bach’s Italian Concerto has been voted Classic FM’s Connoisseur’s choice. Since 2016 Steven has been Curator of Early Music for the Norwegian Wind Ensemble.

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Projects

In Venetia MDCXXVIIII (2)

Venice 1629

Venetian music for solo voice, cornetts and violins by Claudio Monteverdi, Alessandro Grandi, Dario Castello, Biagio Marini, Orazio Tarditi, Benedetto Re.

1629 was a remarkable year for the publication of new music in Venice. Foremost among the musical offerings that year was the first book of Symphoniae Sacrae by Heinrich Schütz, who had come to Venice to learn of the latest developments in modern music from Claudio Monteverdi, then maestro di cappella at St Mark’s. But it was perhaps the music of Alessandro Grandi, Monteverdi’s erstwhile deputy, that was to have the most profound influence on Schütz. Grandi was a specialist in the small-scale, writing monody in the most modern rhetorical style together with ritornelli for two violins, thus introducing aspects of the trio sonata into the genre. Grandi left Venice for Bergamo in 1627, but kept his ties with Venice and published his third and final book of concertato motets there in 1629. His contribution to the development of sacred music was to have a lasting influence in Venice and far beyond for generations to come.

Coincidentally, 1629 also saw the publication of two landmark collections in the development of virtuosic instrumental music in the emerging baroque style. Dario Castello, a leading wind player at St Mark’s, published his second volume of Sonate concertate in stil moderno, while Biagio Marini, a virtuoso violinist who had also been in the employ of St Mark’s in the early years of Monteverdi’s tenure, published his seminal Op.8, in which we see the beginnings of a clear distinction in idiomatic writing for cornetto and violin (instruments which in many previous publications had been considered interchangeable).

The myth of the musical contest between Apollo and Marsyas was a source of great fascination for Renaissance musicians, artists and scholars. This was a contest the wind-playing Marsyas was destined to lose, but not until the Muses called the first round a draw and Apollo turned his lyre upside down, a feat Marsyas could not emulate on his aulos. This provides an apt metaphor for our programme, which explores the struggle for supremacy between wind and string players in the early seventeenth century. Until 1629 the cornettists, lauded for their ability to imitate the human voice, perhaps held the upper hand; but Marini’s Op.8 introduced new tricks for the violin that were to leave the wind players standing.

Finally, Claudio Monteverdi himself is represented in Lorenzo Calvi’s 1629 anthology, Quarta raccolta de’ sacri canti, the unique source for Exulta filia Sion, a solo-voice motet which draws together some of the most progressive compositional devices of the day: dramatic recitative, dance-influenced triple-time arioso, and ground bass patterns. Our programme offers a choice selection from each of these publications, as a series of snapshots from an extraordinary year in the life of this most musical of cities. This programme is a celebration of the high-water mark of Venetian chamber music, prior to the plague of 1630-1 that was to wipe out the famed cornett virtuosi of the city for a generation.

 

Requirements:

Solo soprano (Faye Newton)

2 cornetts (Jamie Savan, director; Helen Roberts)

2 violins (Oliver Webber; Theresa Caudle)

Organ / harpsichord (Steven Devine)

Gonzaga Band group black & white

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Recordings

Venice 1629

Released 29 June 2018 on Resonus Classics

Venice 1629 CD (including P&P)

Pre-order a copy of the CD signed by Jamie and Faye and receive a free bonus MP3 track. Offer available until 29 June 2018.

£12.99

Venice 1629 album cover

Venice 1629 back cover

1629 was a remarkable year for new music in Venice. Heinrich Schütz came to the city to learn of the new Italian style from Claudio Monteverdi and his contemporaries, publishing his seminal first volume of Symphoniae sacrae during his visit. Further innovative collections from Dario Castello, Alessandro Grandi and Biagio Marini contributed to this pivotal moment in the development of the early Baroque style. Acclaimed period ensemble The Gonzaga Band makes its Resonus debut with a fascinating programme that encapsulates an extraordinary year in the life of this most musical of cities.

Faye Newton – soprano, Jamie Savan – cornett/director, Helen Roberts – cornett, Oliver Webber – violin, Theresa Caudle – violin/cornett, Steven Devine – organ/harpsichord.

Chamber Vespers

Chandos / Chaconne, 2011 – listen to extracts on the Chandos website.

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“Congregations in 17th-century Ancona or Bologna would have been lucky indeed to hear instrumental playing remotely as vivid as the Gonzaga Band’s”, Gramophone

“Savan and company have an instinctive feel for this repertoire, their persuasive performances delivered with terrific flair and panache”, BBC Music.

Sacred Garland

Chandos / Chaconne, 2009: listen to extracts on the Chandos website.

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“Faultless and fascinating”, Gramophone

Sacred Garland …is one of those discs which so perfectly seems to capture an entire lost world in microcosm.” International Record Review

“CD of the Week”, ABC Classic FM Radio, Australia

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Contact

Please use the form below if you’d like to get in touch with The Gonzaga Band.