Johannes Martini

Program: #22-37   Air Date: Sep 12, 2022

To listen to this show, you must first LOG IN. If you have already logged in, but you are still seeing this message, please SUBSCRIBE or UPGRADE your subscriber level today.

This 15th century Franco-Flemish composer who worked in Italy finally now has a new recording that explores his vast range of compositions, from psalms and mass movements to chansons and instrumental pieces.

NOTE: All of the music on this recording comes from Johannes Martini: La fleur de biaulté with the ensemble Le Miroir de Musique directed by Baptiste Romain. It is on the Ricercar label and is CD RIC 430.

Born in Leuze (Hainaut) around 1430, Johannes Martini was initially active in Konstanz, then in Milan and Ferrara, where he died on 23 October 1497. Closely connected with the d’Este family, he was paid in 1479 for the production of a large volume of vocal music for the ducal chapel of Ferrara. He is also the key contributor to the Casanatense Chansonnier, which was compiled for the marriage of Isabella d’Este to Gianfrancesco II Gonzaga in 1490. Thanks to these collections, we can for the first time present a glimpse of the immense output (motets, psalms, mass movements, chansons, instrumental chansons) of one of the most refined composers of the generation before Josquin’s.

From Fanfare Magazine: The music of Johannes Martini is well known those of us interested in Renaissance polyphony, but he is a less familiar name than, say, Josquin des Prez or Obrecht. Long associated with the ducal court at Ferrara, Martini’s Masses and motets are on the conservative side stylistically, but they are nonetheless some of the most refined and sophisticated of the period. Martini also wrote secular music in both French and Italian. With this album, La Fleur de Biaulté, their fifth on the Ricerar label, Le Miroir de Musique presents a fine sampler of Martini’s music that traverses the full range of his output. The music and its context are introduced in Murray Steib’s liner essay. Steib is an internationally respected musicologist whose meticulous research includes critical editions of Martini’s sacred music; his essay is compact, informative, and readable.

The album was recorded in September 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic escalated. As such, Martini’s motet O beate Sebastiane is an apt choice with which to open the program. St. Sebastian was frequently invoked as an intercessor to protect against plague in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The singers deliver a detailed reading of the motet, full of transparent textures and subtle refinements in phrasing and line. The choral blend is balanced evenly, and there is still a warmth that underlies the clarity. The other motets and Mass movements on the disc are treated similarly. Martini was a pioneer in the use of antiphonal choirs, and Quare fremuerunt gentes is typical of psalm settings. Like the other psalms on the album, the singers offer a subdued reading that is defined by clarity in both texture and diction. Their approach to plainchant and both imitative and free counterpoint in these individual items makes me wish they would tackle a full liturgical reconstruction in the future. Like the sacred vocal works, the sung chansons are refined and carefully controlled.

Among the instrumental selections, the pair of La Martinella and the later work La Martinella pittzulo are highlights; the players treat the two- and three-voice textures delicately. The other instrumental works include a dance-like Der newe pawer schwanz, that shows off nuanced viol playing, and Helas comment aves, which features exceptional bagpiping along with other loud instruments like the sackbut and shawm. The timbres here are just right, salient without being piercing. Most of the chansons are performed instrumentally as well but the players approach the counterpoint much as one would vocal lines, giving the music a flowing, singing quality. This is particularly evident in chansons like La fleur de biaulté and De la bonne chiere; a pair of settings of Fortuna desperata is gently rollicking. Again, after hearing Le Miroir de Musique in these individual works, one can only hope that its members turn their attention to some large-scale projects. Their choral sound and approach are ideally suited for this music, and the consort is top-notch.

  1. O beate Sebastiane
  2. La Martinella
  3. La Martinelle pittzulo
  4. Letatus sum
  5. Biaulx parle toujours
  6. La fleur de biaulté
  7. Quare fremuerunt gentes
  8. Magnificat tertii toni
  9. Helas comment aves
  10. Que je fasoye
  11. Fortuna desperata
  12. Fortuna disperata
  13. Fortuna d'un gran tempo
  14. Scoen kint
  15. Sans riens du mal
  16. J’espoir mieulx
  17. Missa Ma bouche rit (Credo)
  18. Der newe pawer schwantcz
  19. De la bonne chiere
  20. Tant que dieu voldra
  21. Ave amator casti consilii
  22. Des biens d’amours
  23. Missa La Martinella (Agnus Dei)
  24. Cela sans plus

Composer Info

Johannes Martini,

CD Info

Ricercar label CD RIC 430