Performing Early-Seventeenth-Century Italian Recorder Music

This doctoral research project focuses on the period between ca.1600 and ca.1670, an era in European music history during which Italian composers and performers took the lead in the development of new composition techniques, musical genres, and performance practices. Since ad libitum procedures including a certain amount of freedom in instrumentation were relatively common, some of the repertoire in question – madrigals, motets, canzonas, sonatas, ritornellos and dances – was regularly performed by recorder players – both professionals and amateurs – in Italy and abroad.

However, the period in question does actually not constitute a high point in the history of the recorder as a whole. Whereas there is indeed sufficient evidence for the continued use of the recorder everywhere in Europe, it is also clear that the instrument played a less prominent role than during the 16th or early 18th centuries. There is less extant music specifically written for the recorder, a relatively small number of surviving instruments and only a handful of literary references. As for recorder design, furthermore, it was a period of transition and experimentation during which woodwind instrument makers followed diverse paths in transforming the more or less standardized 16th-century recorder designs into the standard three-part design in use everywhere in Europe towards the end of the 17th century.
Italian “Early-Baroque” music greatly appeals to modern recorder players, it has even become a standard component in their repertoire. But in the face of all the historical uncertainties alluded upon above, two major questions impose themselves:
1. Which pieces were found appropriate for performance on recorder?
2. Which sizes and types of instruments were used?

A thorough study of historical treatises on music theory and performance practice, a careful examination of extant instruments preserved in a number of European museums and much patient scrutiny of numerous collections of music should enable me to come up with some solid answers in the form of newly developed instrument types – recorders as well as bass violin, harpsichord and organ – and a putative repertoire list.