Bartolomé de Selma y Salaverde is one of the large group of composers from the early seventeenth century about whom little is known, reducing performers to speculation and educated guesses. The annotator of this Belgian release even suggests that you could write a historical novel based on Salaverde's presumed travels across Europe, not something that's going to knock Dan Brown off the bestseller lists, but interesting enough if the twists and turns of European empire appeal to you. Salaverde was presumably Spanish and apparently, judging from his mastery of the new northern Italian styles of the day, served in Venice. He was likely, to judge from the ranges of some of his pieces and from indications as to their instrumentation, something of a virtuoso on bassoon and perhaps the various ancestors of the oboe. The unusual part of the story is that his work is known solely from a manuscript at the University of Wroclaw in Poland, which during its years as a Habsburg possession was known as Breslau and was part of the Viennese cultural sphere. Thus, it's likely that Salaverde was one of the composers who carried the big polychoral style to Poland, where it flourished. The booklet notes issue various disclaimers about these small instrumental pieces, but they needn't have been so defensive; the music is delightful, even for general listeners. You get to hear early bassoons as well as the bombardino and other ancestors of the oboe in canzonas, short dances, and solo pieces, performed with various combinations of instruments (as indeed they would have been at the time, the manuscripts specifying little in the way of instrumentation). The compositions are short, but many of them show a composer who was on top of key trends in the formation of both instrumental virtuoso traditions and the structural possibilities of independent instrumental forms. The canzonas, for example, depart from the characteristic long-short-short rhythm and the primarily vocal conception of many works in the genre, with a variety of moods and in several cases sharply contrasting sections. There are also several interesting solo harpsichord pieces that suggest the influence of the Spanish style as composers like Salaverde carried it around. This may be a specialist release, but it's musically satisfying and enjoyable for anyone whose interest has been caught by the chamber music of the early Baroque. For those connected to the still sketchy field of early Polish music, it's essential.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim