Harpsichordist Mario Sarrechia plays not only in ensembles such as La Petite Bande and his own Amsterdam Corelli Collective, he also has captivating solo recitals to add to his record of achievements. He aptly explores the repertoire of the Low Countries, with music by Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck and Joseph-Hector Fiocco. It is common knowledge that Antwerp was an important centre for harpsichord building. The instruments built in the 16th and 17th century by the Rucker family are still considered to be the Rolls Royces of harpsichords. Nevertheless, it is remarkable that relatively little is known about the instrument’s repertoire. The music practice of it’s time plays a role in this. Firstly, there was a lot of improvisation on the piano, this meant that naturally few musical traces were left behind. Secondly, there was a limited market for music prints and handwritten sources often did not survive the test of time. Thirdly, there is simply too much anonymous music left gathering dust. Fortunately, the music of the Low Countries has gained more attention in recent decades, thanks to the work of pioneer Ton Koopman.
The organist, composer and pedagogue from Amsterdam, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621) was a bridge builder between the renaissance and baroque periods. He was inspired by the Spanish and Italian schools, and especially from the English virginalists such as William Byrd and John Bull. Like the latter, Sweelinck composed virtuoso piano music full of variations and imaginative ornamentation. He also wrote complex contrapuntal works in which different voices are interwoven. His Paduana lachrymae is a series of variations on a melody by the English John Dowland (1563-1626). Sweelinck arranged this melody in different voices and combined it with contrapuntal motifs.
A century later, Joseph-Hector Fiocco (1703-1741) worked as ‘sangmeester’ (singing master), first in Antwerp, followed by the Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula in Brussels. His Pièces de clavecin (1730) are strongly influenced by François Couperin’s French style, as much in structure as in harmonic development, melody and ornamentation. The volume contains two large suites; a succession of typically French dances with a descriptive title. However, for the last four movements of the first suite (which Sarrechia plays in his recital), Fiocco departs from the French model, forming a self-standing Italian style sonata with the tempo markings adagio, allegro, andante and vivace. The lyrical characteristics of the slow movements in particular recall the music of Fiocco’s contemporary Vivaldi, who died the same year.
Fifteen years after Fiocco’s death, Jacques Duphly published his Troisième livre de pièces de clavecin. Duphly (1715-1789) initially worked as an organist in Normandy but moved to Paris in 1742 and pursued a career as a harpsichordist. Whilst there, he enjoyed an outstanding reputation and gave private lessons to the most prestigious families. Few of his works survived, although we are certain he wrote four volumes of piano music. However, after his death he fell into oblivion. Is it not symbolic that he died the same year the French Revolution began? Not only did heads roll under the guillotine but harpsichords were also burnt as heretical attributes of the French aristocracy. Duphly’s Chaconne in F is the most extensive movement of his third volume. In the template of a solemn dance, Duphly links together different variations in a three-part time signature. He is not an innovator in terms of style or composition technique, but is indeed considered to be a ‘petit maître’, who according to harpsichordist Christophe Rousset, composed for the harpsichord in a “magnificent fashion”.
This project was created thanks to the donations of many music lovers to AMUZ’s ‘Support Fund for Young Belgian Artists’. Read more.
Joseph-Hector Fiocco (1703-1741)
from: Pièces de Clavecin, Opus 1
Suite in G, opus 1 nr. 1
Adagio | Allegro | Andante | Vivace
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621)
Jean-Jacques Duphly (1715-1789)
from: Pièces de Clavecin, 3ème livre
Chaconne in F
Mario Sarrechia, harpsichord
The Belgian harpsichordist Mario Sarrechia studied with Ewald Demeyere at the conservatory of Antwerp, as well as with Bob van Asperen, Menno van Delft and Richard Egarr at the Amsterdam Conservatory. He took master classes with Gustav Leonhardt, Christophe Rousset and Sigiswald Kuijken. After his studies, he became a basso continuo player with La Petite Bande, with whom he also regularly performed as a soloist. He has also worked with ensembles such as La Sfera Armoniosa, Trondheim Barokk, RedHerring and the Nederlands Kamerkoor.
Since 2013, Mario Sarrechia has led the Amsterdam Corelli Collective which he founded with some friends. The ensemble was part of the eeemerging programme of the Festival d’Ambronay in 2015, the International Young Artist’s Presentation during Laus Polyphoniae in 2016 and also collaborated with Hana Blazíková and Shunske Sato.
Mario Sarrechia has recorded a solo CD with music related to the famous Antwerp harpsichord maker family Ruckers. As a researcher, he focuses on the performance of French chansons, a topic which he has lectured at Cambridge University and in the Vleeshuis Museum in Antwerp. He also teaches music theory at Leiden University.