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Sounds So Nice, Feels So Good

The cornetto is a woodwind instrument with a brass-style cup mouth piece which flourished in the mid 1600’s, in the early to middle-baroque period.


On their newest Accent release Le Concert Brisé features the cornetist William Dongois in sonatas by Johann Heinrich SchmelzerThere is a certain frailty and vulnerability in the sound quality of the cornetto that begs the listener’s undivided attention.  The cornetto is a woodwind instrument with a brass-style cup mouth piece. It is often constructed to have a curved body and wrapped in leather, but on this recording, straight cornettos were used. As a hybrid instrument, it possesses a very unique sound quality.

The cornetto flourished in the mid 1600’s, in the early to middle-baroque period. It could be played in consort with other brass instruments doubling and reinforcing voices in a choir, a configuration well-favored by Venetian composers and institutions. 

Although by the 19th century the cornetto had fallen out of use almost entirely, during its heyday, composers also wrote for the cornetto as a virtuosic instrument on par with the soloistic capabilities of the violin.


The sound of the cornetto may remind modern listeners of another instrument that flourished a few centuries later, the flugelhorn. Admittedly, the cornetto doesn’t  have much to do with the flugelhorn, but the two do share a certain vocal quality, and well…maybe if instruments have many lives, one is a reincarnation of the other.

Le Concert Brisé

 This podcast has focused on the cornetto playing of one member of Le Concert Brisé, William Dongois together with violinist Alice Julien-Laferrière. The continuo accompaniment by Hadrien Jourdan is played on a very distinctive sounding Rudi Jacques mean-tone organ. There is gutsy dulcian playing from Moni Fischalek, alongside Jean-François Madeuf on the natural trumpet and Stefan Legée sackbut.

Tr. 1, Sonatae unarum fidium: Sonata No. 2; Tr. 9, Sonata à 5; Tr. 6, Duodena selectarum sonatarum: Sonata No. 8
Le Concert Brisé — Johann Heinrich Schmelzer Sonatas (Accent Records, 2017)
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Janelle Davis

Janelle Davis is a violinist and performer with period instrument ensembles throughout the United States. She is currently a candidate for the Doctor of Music degree from Indiana University, Bloomington where she specializes in early music.

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