Giovanni Legrenzi was one of the most gifted and influential composers of the latter half of the 17th century.
He played an active and decisive role in the complex and delicate process of the new Baroque style taking shape and becoming established in northern Italy.
At that time the province of Bergamo, a domain of the Venetian Republic, had an immense cultural heritage which is best expressed through its beautiful basilicas, monuments, and music patrimony. Furthermore, the Music performed in Bergamo at Santa Maria Maggiore, one of the most prestigious churches of the town, was the most advanced, the most experimental and the most stylistically and formally innovative for the time.
Santa Maria Maggiore was renowned throughout Italy for its exceptional standard of choral music. Among the «Maestri di Cappella» there were musicians such as Pietro Vinci, Maurizio Cazzati, Tarquino Merula, Giovanni Battista Crivelli, Giovanni Battista Bassani and also two illustrious organists: Benedetto Fontana Giovanni Battista Quaglia and Giovanni Legrenzi.
About thirty kilometres from Bergamo, Legrenzi was born in Clusone (1626-1690) a pleasant and suggestive town in the Val Seriana, a real gem unknown to most, a sort of timeless village.
He belongs to the generation of musicians whose work sums up an entire era (the baroque) and was able to change the style of the 17th-century musical language. He is an artist who deserves to be known better: with his excellent instrumental and sacred music collections Giovanni Legrenzi fascinated all of Europe.
His total adherence to the monteverdian command that the music is «serva dell’horatione» gives his music its value.
Bach, Haendel, admiring his music, did not hesitate to choose Legrenzi’s melodies as themes for contrapuntal elaboration, confirming the value of his superb music and his boundless creativity.
It is not a case that the year 2026 marks the 400th anniversary of Legrenzi’s birth. For this occasion in order to celebrate his famous citizen, the municipality of CLUSONE has decided to realise a range of activities in which the main cultural, artistic Italian and European institutions will be involved.
The artistic direction of the project was entrusted to two great Italian artists, such as GIOVANNI ACCIAI and IVANA VALOTTI: the musicians that have been dedicating themselves to the rediscovery and study of Legrenzi’s unpublished sacred vocal works for a long time.
The planned activities designed by the artistic direction aim at a tight integration between art and music present in Clusone.
In fact, this small, medieval village (in which Legrenzi spent his childhood) is even today a centre that most represents a perfect fusion of art, culture and nature; it is rich in places with unique and exceptional historical value waiting to be enhanced and admired by all the people.
If one would like to know the composer, it is fundamental to raise awareness of the environment, and the contexts of his living in order to retrace his first musical steps.
Walking through the streets of the medieval town, roads travelled by the musician, one will imagine its splendour in past centuries by looking for the traces of the frescoes that in the Middle Ages decorated the facades of the buildings in the centre.
In particular one can admire the medieval «Palazzo del comune» and next to it the 16th-century planetary clock, an extraordinary work by Pietro Fanzago. Placed in «Piazza orologio» one will be struck by the ingenuity with which Pietro Fanzago created this mechanism in 1582, which is still fully functional. The clock marks the hours, minutes, and zodiac signs, showing us how in the 16th century men imaginate the universe. Probably even Legrenzi was fascinated by this work as Dieterich Buxtehude admired looking for the exact mechanism present in Lubeck.
The real heart of Clusone is the beautiful Basilica dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta. It is no coincidence that it was built at the end of the seventeenth century, based on a design by Giovanni Battista Quadrio, a week-known architect who also worked on the construction of the Milan cathedral.
Another treasure is the «Oratorio dei disciplini», a small jewel is hidden in the shadow of the nearby Basilica. Built-in the 14th century by the confraternity it has, on the outside, one of the most beautiful and
rare examples of frescoes of the Triumph of death and macabre dance ever made. This masterpiece represents a unique synthesis in Europe of the typical depictions of Death that circulated at the end of the Middle Ages. It reminds me once again of a similar fresco placed in one of the Chapels of S. Maria in Lubeck!
It is the symbol of the city, unique in Europe of its kind, that stands out on the facade of the «Oratorio dei disciplini» for over five hundred years!
Not by chance one is captured by the charm of a city that contains testimonies of every era. It deserves to be valued, known and admired for its so remarkable and interesting artistic treasures.
The love for Italian patrimony and the desire to share it to the attention of a wider audience, are the values that guide our work.
The programme of this new festival Musica Mirabilis, proposed by the artistic director aims to emphasize the musical world of this famous composer.
It is not a banal idea: It is the first time that an Italian institution like the Clusone municipality realise, after four hundred years after the birth of his famous citizen, an important musical voyage discovering his superb unpublished works.
His Music is in fact the real symbol of Baroque.
For this reason, today his hometown celebrates him with a great festival reconstructing the whole artistic career of the composer from 1654 to the year of his death (1690).
The official inauguration scheduled for Sunday, 8 October at the «Chiesa della Beata Vergine del Paradiso» represents the first celebration of the 2022-2026 Musica Mirabilis festival editions. It presents the premiere world performance of the Compiete, opus VII (Venezia 1662) realised by «Nova Ars Cantandi», the ensemble in residence of this particular festival. The event will be recorded by Venice Classic Radio, the official radio of the festival.
The calendar programme includes concerts, conferences, publications, workshops, video and audio recordings, a competition for students and so on.
This year's edition will begin on August 26, with the concert of the «Insieme strumentale di Roma», directed by Giorgio Sasso, who will propose the complete Sonatas for two violins and basso continuo, opus II (Venezia, 1655 ); on 23 September, the «Harmonices Mundi» ensemble, conducted by Claudio Astronio, will compete in the execution of the Echi di riverenza di cantate e canzoni, opus XIV (Bologna, 1678) for solo voice and basso continuo; while on 30 September, it will be possible to hear from the «Ensemble Locatelli», conducted by Thomas Chigioni, another firstfruits of the Clusonese: the Sonate a due, tre, cinque e sei istromenti, op. VIII (Venezia, 1663).
Finally, on 14 October, Giovanni Acciai, the «Nova Ars Cantandi» ensemble and the organist Ivana Valotti, will conclude the 2023 season, performing the Vespro di San Callisto, created with excerpts from Legrenzi's opus V, Salmi a Cinque, tre voci e due violini (Venezia, 1657).
With the music scheduled for this second edition of Musica Mirabilis, we are therefore faced with a garland of masterpieces by Giovanni Legrenzi worthy of being reproposed to the public's attention through concert performances, in the awareness that if we really want to reach a thorough knowledge of the musical legacy of the Clusonese there is no other way forward than this. A path, which Musica Mirabilis has pursued with obstinacy and inflexible firmness, since its inception, with the declared aim of exalting, in its luminous aura of beauty and truth, the supreme art of Giovanni Legrenzi.