Born in Correggio in Italy's Emilia region, Claudio Merulo (1533–1604) worked in a number of of italian cities, including Brescia and Venice. It was in Venice that Merulo held one of his most significant posts, a 1577 appointment at San Marco as assistant organist to Annibale Padovano. In addition to playing and composing, Merulo was also interested in organ building and is credited with making additions to the organ at San Marco. Merulo's works encompass the entire range of keyboard music that flourished in the 16th century, notably toccate, ricercari, and canzoni.
This recording (the second volume in a series of Merulo's complete organ works) performed by the organist Stefano Molardi, features music played on two 16th-century Italian organs. These are colorful instruments, and Molardi is a fluid, thoughtful player who gets the most out of them. Merulo's toccate are big affairs with lots of imitative writing, and Molardi plays with grand nobility. This is especially true of the 1604 "Toccata nona", which sings splendidly on the 1533 Vincenzo Colombi organ, one of the last surviving instruments of the Venetian organ-building school of the Renaissance. For contrast, we have the deliciously sweettoned 1588 Antegnati organ (the flute stops are like honey), which is ideal for some of the delightful canzoni heard on the second disc, such as the gentle "La Jolette".
This is as perfect as a disc of this repertoire as you will find. The liner notes are detailed and well written, the sound quality is lifelike, and Molardi's playing is impeccable.