Antonio Florio’s deep understanding of the Baroque musical terrain of Naples now takes him to the dawn of the 18th century when the fervour and visceral excitement held by Neapolitans for their chief patron saint San Gennaro was at its height, in an era when the city had been ravaged by plague and was living in constant fear of eruptions from nearby Mount Vesuvius. Great devotion was directed at San Gennaro, in the belief that he would ward off further evils: a richly-adorned chapel in Naples’s cathedral was dedicated to him and provided with its own musical ensemble, and a stream of composers (often pupils of the great Francesco Provenzale) such as Cristofaro Caresana, Nicola Fago and Gaetano Veneziano worked there. Central to the programme of I Turchini, prepared by Florio and Dinko Fabris, are performances of Fago’s four-part Stabat Mater and Caresana’s canzona Sirene festose. There is a rare outing also for a motet, Antra valles Divo plaudant, written by the young Domenico Scarlatti – three of whose string sinfonias are also included here – when he was one of the organists in the Real Cappella; musicians in Naples regularly moved in and out of different ensembles, then as now. A booklet essay by Fabris himself splendidly underpins the popular traditions and musical and religious colour surrounding San Gennaro in a Naples still alive today; moreover, an evocation brought to potent life by the performances of Florio, with his singers and instrumentalists of I Turchini.
In the Biblioteca Nazionale in Naples there is a fifteenth-century manuscript containing six masses all based on the cantus firmus of the popular tune L'homme Armé. The front pages of these masses are neatly razored out owing to some miniature harvesting in antiquity, depriving us not only of key parts from within the musical texts but also of any composer attribution that may have appeared on those pages. This has produced one of the most hotly debated issues in renaissance music; Judith Cohen – who has edited the masses for their first publication in 1981 – Richard Taruskin and most others have adduced in favor of Franco-Flemish composer Antoine Busnois.