Album Title: Canzoni, Fantasie & Correnti
Bartolome de Selma y Salaverde, Syntagma Amici / Jeremie Papasergio
Label: Ricercar RIC 279
Play Time:
Recorded: Eglise Notre Dame de Centeilles, August 2008

Faithful to their mission and promise to take listeners on previously unexplored territories, Ricercar invites us this time to discover early Spanish compositions by the often forgotten Bartolome de Selma y Salaverde, born sometime between 1580 and 1590. Precious little is known about Selma but it seems that after receiving his musical instructions, he entered the Order of Saint Augustine and then moved to Central Europe where, from 1628 to 1630, he played the fagott (bassoon) in the Orchestra of the Chapel of Archduke Leopold located in Innsbruck.

Later he remained for some years in Venice and after that, he worked for other princely courts. He died some time after 1638, probably in Austria or Poland, maybe in Venice. His only known works are contained in the book known as the "Primo Libro Canzoni, Fantasie et Correnti da suonar a 1, 2, 3, 4 voci con Basso Continuo" published in 1638 in Venice and dedicated to the Prince John Charles of Poland and Sweden. Yet it is not too difficult to trace this Selma y Salaverde to first his grandfather, a sackbut player and bassoon maker in Cueca (Spain) and then his father, bassoon player and maker as well (some of his work, preserved in museums, served to recreate the instruments used in this recording). It therefore should come as no surprise that this instrument, rather rare outside of Spain, plays such a central role in Bartolome's composition.

Only one copy of Selma's work exists and is preserved in Poland, allowing us to discover a composer who was both a virtuoso and very original thinker. Interestingly, although the dances and canzone include many parts for basso solo (and therefore bassoon), Selma only rarely indicates which instrument should play which part, leaving tremendous freedom to the musicians. The viola da gamba could easily be substituted for the bassoon in most of those compositions.

Another detail of interest is that some of the compositions reach further into the bass than known fagottos of this period can do (such modern bassoons would not appear for another century) and much recreation was therefore necessary to come up with an instrument capable of playing Salaverde's music while preserving the uniquely rich sonority of the bassoons of his period.

The result is music from the early 18
th century that will sometimes remind you of Monteverdi or Frescobaldi but mostly will be fresh and unique. Selma y Salaverde uses the whole gamut of forms, virtuosity, expressivity and lyricism at his disposal but rearranges all those elements in a form that is free and innovative. At times he will reach into the most extreme technical challenges and as quickly switch to a technically undemanding yet emotionally laden lyricism.

Works for the bassoon are rare and few reach the level of achievement Salaverde was capable of. Unfortunately only one of his compositions has survived. Fortunately Syntagma Amici give a wonderful and captivating interpretation of this work. I wish we had more testimonies of the composing talent of this Spaniard virtuoso who may have been the greatest bassoon player of all times but in any case, this disc is a must own for everybody with an ear for 18th century music or seeking an initiation.