Three from Brilliant Classics

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Program: #16-45, Air Date: 10/31/16

Keyboard artistry from the court of Gesualdo, recorder music from Golden Age Spain, and sacred motets of a composer other side famous for his keyboard publications, Claudio Merulo.

I. El Aire de Serena: Music from the Courts and Cathedrals of 16th century Spain (Seldom Sene Recorder Quintet). Brilliant Classics CD 95304.

From MusicWeb International: Very little original music for instrumental ensemble was written before the baroque period. Ensembles either supported singers in sacred or secular music or played instrumental adaptations of vocal music. The two main categories of independent instrumental music were dances and consort music. The latter genre was especially popular in England and therefore it is not surprising that most recordings of consort music comprise English music of the 16th and early 17th centuries. Such music was originally intended for a consort of viols but could also be played on recorders or violins.

On the present disc the ensemble Seldom Sene follows a different path. It presents a programme of (mostly) music by Spanish composers of the 16th century. The dances are the only genre intended for instrumental performance. The rest of the programme is devoted to music for a single instrument - keyboard, a plucked instrument, harp - or sacred and secular vocal music.

It opens and closes with Josquin;s motet Inviolata, integra et casta es Maria. In 1578 Hernando de Cabezón published a collection of music for keyboard, harp or vihuela by his father Antonio, Obras de musica. A number of pieces in this collection are arrangements of some of the most famous vocal works of the renaissance, among them this motet by Josquin. The figurations in this piece - typical for keyboard and plucked instruments - come off well here. That is not self-evident; in some cases a performance with different instruments may be less successful. It is interesting to hear also the original version by Josquin which shows how much Cabezón changed it. His arrangement results in a piece which can stand on its own. Not only Josquin's motet but also the madrigal Dormend'un giorno a Baia by Philippe Verdelot is included in two versions: the original and the arrangement by Cabezón. His collection is one of the main sources of such arrangements. It also includes Triste de par, after the chanson Triste départ by Nicolas Gombert. It is played on the lower recorders which suits the sad content of this piece. Hernando also included some pieces from his own pen in Obras de musica, such as Susana un jur, an arrangement of Lassus' famous chanson Susanne un jour.

Verdelot's madrigal also figures in the sacred part of the programme: from Francesco Guerrero's Missa Dormendo un giorno the third Agnus Dei is taken. It is one of the pieces which is performed here as it was written down by the composer. In the motet Trahe me post te the two upper parts are a canon, illustrating the meaning of the text: "Draw me after you, and let us run to the fragrance of your ointments", a text from the Song of Songs. Guerrero is one of the main composers of sacred music from the Spanish renaissance who are represented in this part of the programme. The other two are Cristóbal de Morales and Tomás Luis de Victoria. Morales's motet Lamentabatur Iacob is an impressive and incisive piece which receives an outstanding and compelling performance. Victoria's Ascendens Christus in altum is a motet for Ascension Day in which the text is illustrated by ascending figures in the various voices. A lesser known composer is Francesco de Peñalosa. He is also the earliest composer in the programme which explains why his motet Adoro te, Domine is for three voices. Such scoring was common in his time but went out of fashion later on. It is played on lower instruments, reflecting the original scoring - probably for alto, tenor and bass.

The villancico represents a specific Spanish genre of vocal music, comprising several stanzas (coplas) framed by a refrain (estribillo). Originally a villancico was a secular piece but in the second half of the 16th century this form was increasingly used for sacred subjects. Lágrimas de mi consuelo by Juan Vásquez is an example of a villancico with secular content; the composer was especially famous for his secular music. Many sacred villancicos were intended for Christmastide. The anonymous Riu, riu, chiu is a rather well-known specimen of this genre. Also for Christmastide and stylistically close to these pieces is ¡Hombres, victoria, victoria! by Guerrero, from a collection of songs and villanescas of 1589. It seems that these pieces were originally conceived as secular works and that for this edition Guerrero replaced the secular texts with sacred ones.

The last category in the programme concerns dance music, the most common genre of original instrumental music in the renaissance. Dances are often not fully written out: apart from some lines it is left to the performers to bring them to life. In La Spagna, a bassadanza by Francesco da Milano, one of the players creates a sound which is probably intended to imitate percussion.

This disc is a model of creative and thoughtful programming. It was a good idea to focus on Spanish music: a large part of this repertoire is little-known and it is certainly seldom played by recorder consorts. The ensemble has won several competions, for instance the Van Wassenaer Competition, part of the Festival Early Music Utrecht. That is easily understandable. The playing is of the highest order: immaculate intonation and perfect ensemble are two of the main requirements for a good performance of consort music. The fact that a large part of the programme is of vocal origin comes off well: one of the features of these performances is the vocalised style of playing, with the delicate but clearly audible dynamic shading which is a feature of renaissance vocal music. In their phrasing and articulation the players also observe the vocal origin of the music.

Such a large battery of recorders is not often used in a recording of consort music: the list in the booklet mentions 33 different instruments, from sopranino to sub-contrabass. This can be explained by the fact that a large part of the programme was conceived for voices, which have a wider tessitura than recorders. The booklet not only lists all the recorders but also indicates which of them are used in which piece. Exemplary.

Most of this programme I had heard before in a live performance. I greatly enjoyed the concert and listening again to this ensemble on disc was a very nice experience. Lovers of the recorder should not hesitate: this is a disc to treasure.

Antonio DE CABEZÓN (c1510-1566)
Inviolata. Jusquin [3:54]
Francisco GUERRERO (1528-1599)
Missa Dormendo un giorno:
Agnus Dei III [3:44]
Antonio DE CABEZÓN
Durmendo un jorno. Verdelot [3:05]
Philippe VERDELOT (c1480/85-c1530/32)
Dormend'un giorno a Baia [2:33]
Cristóbal DE MORALES (c1500-1553)
Lamentabatur Iacob [9:31]
Tomás Luis DE VICTORIA (1548-1611)
Ascendens Christus in altum [4:56]
Antonio DE CABEZÓN
Triste de par. Gombert [3:45]
Juan VÁSQUEZ (c1500-c1560)
Lágrimas de mi consuelo [2:40]
Francisco DE LA TORRE (fl 1483-1504)
[Danza] alta [1:05]
Fabritio CAROSO (c1527/35-after 1605)
Amor mio, balletto [1:30]
Francesco DA MILANO (1497-1543)
La Spagna, bassadanza [1:32]
Alonso LOBO (1555-1617)
Ave Regina coelorum [3:19]
Francisco DE PEÑALOSO (c1470-1528)
Adoro te, Domine [2:49]
Francisco GUERRERO
Missa pro defunctis:
Lux aeterna [3:23]
Hernando DE CABEZÓN (1541-1602)
Susana un jur. Glossada de Hernando de Cabeçon [3:20]
ANON.
Riu, riu, chiu [1:37]
Francisco GUERRERO
Trahe me post te, Virgo Maria [5:34]
¡Hombres, victoria, victoria! [3:30]
JOSQUIN DESPREZ (c1450/55-1521)
Inviolata, integra et casta es, Maria [5:50]

II. Merulo Motets (Modus Ensemble/Mauro Marchetti). Brilliant Classics CD 95243.

Along with his prestigious position of first organist of the San Marco in Venice, composer Claudio Merulo (1533-1604) also composed outstanding keyboard music, masses, motets, and madrigals. Merulo’s Motets are featured on this new release. These works show his innovation with their linguistic freedom not typical of the High Renaissance motets. Conducted by Mauro Marchetti, the Italian Modus Ensemble is accompanied by historical instruments: the viola da gamba, violone, theorbo, and organ.

1. Salvator noster, dilectissimi [3.38]
2. Stephanus autem plenus gratia [2.33]
3. Maximum hoc omnium [2.55]
4. Innocentes pro Christo [2.14]
5. O admirabile commercium [2.43]
6. Tribes miraculis ornatum diem [2.03]
7. Bonum certamen certavi [2.21]
8. Hodie beata Virgo Maria [1.38]
9. Ave Maria [2.17]
10. Haec est dies [2.06]
11. Sancti et justi [1.52]
12. Cumque beatissimus Marcus Evangelista [2.14]
13. Ascendens Christus in alium [1.51]
14. Hodie Spiritus Sanctus [1.58]
15. O Adorando Trinitas [2.23]
16. Ego sum panis vivus [2.10]
17. Puer qui natus est [1.50]
18. Tu es Petrus [2.12]
19. Beata Elisabeth [1.55]
20. Maria unxit pedes Jesu [2.16]

III. Giovanni de Macque: The Keyboard School at Gesualdo’s Court (Fabio Antonio Falcone, harpsichord & virginal). Brilliant Classics CD 94998.


Comprised of 25 tracks and featuring eight different composers, this release celebrates the best of Giovanni de Macque and his contemporaries in late-16th-century Naples. Each piece hails from the Luigi Rossi manuscript, a collection compiled in 1617 that survives to this day, giving us an extraordinary overview of the keyboard compositions written for the aristocrats who ruled the Kingdom of Naples at the time. Indeed, at a time when wealthy families were striving to retain their power and influence as the lower classes benefitted from a sharp economic upturn, the music of this period was highly complex, still exclusively aimed at the cultivated upper classes: extreme chromaticism as well as extensive use of polyphony and harmonic audacity are common traits of these works. On his arrival in Naples, De Macque made sure to curry favour with the right people, including Fabrizio Gesualdo, whose son Carlo became a famous composer in his own right. Works by both men, along with other renowned composers of their day, are included on this release, and the connection between De Macque and Gesualdo is clear to see. De Macque was far ahead of his time, and became the forerunner of the Neapolitan keyboard school, counting Mayone, Trabaci and Rossi among his pupils, all of whom feature on this disc. This release is a testament to the close artistic circle operating at Gesualdos court at the time: the stylistic unity between these composers and homogenous character of the pieces is by no means incidental. Fabio Antonio Falcone, a passionate performer of Renaissance and early Baroque music, has carefully selected the period instruments for this recording, leading to a highly authentic performance of these historical works. Having studied in The Netherlands with renowned harpsichordist Bob van Asperen, he has already made a name for himself, winning the special prize for Outstanding Performance of a 17th-century Italian Composition at the National Harpsichord Competition in Pesaro in 2007. He is regularly invited to perform internationally and is often heard in conjunction with his ensemble Pizzicar Galante and Caprice Baroque. This is his first release for Brilliant Classics. Other information: Recorded in 2013 at the Cavalli Musica store in Castrezzato, Italy. Notes on the Luigi Rossi manuscript. Extensive notes on De Macque and the Neapolitan school.

Comprised of 25 tracks and featuring eight different composers, this release celebrates the best of Giovanni de Macque and his contemporaries in late‐16th‐century Naples. Each piece hails from the ‘Luigi Rossi’ manuscript, a collection compiled in 1617 that survives to this day, giving us an extraordinary overview of the keyboard compositions written for the aristocrats who ruled the Kingdom of Naples at the time. Indeed, at a time when wealthy families were striving to retain their power and influence as the lower classes benefitted from a sharp economic upturn, the music of this period was highly complex, still exclusively aimed at the cultivated upper classes: extreme chromaticism as well as extensive use of polyphony and harmonic audacity are common traits of these works. On his arrival in Naples, De Macque made sure to curry favour with the right people, including Fabrizio Gesualdo, whose son Carlo became a famous composer in his own right. Works by both men, along with other renowned composers of their day, are included on this release, and the connection between De Macque and Gesualdo is clear to see. De Macque was far ahead of his time, and became the forerunner of the Neapolitan keyboard school, counting Mayone, Trabaci and Rossi among his pupils, all of whom feature on this disc. This release is a testament to the close artistic circle operating at Gesualdo’s court at the time: the stylistic unity between these composers and homogenous character of the pieces is by no means incidental. Fabio Antonio Falcone, a passionate performer of Renaissance and early Baroque music, has carefully selected the period instruments for this recording, leading to a highly authentic performance of these historical works. Having studied in The Netherlands with renowned harpsichordist Bob van Asperen, he has already made a name for himself, winning the special prize for Outstanding Performance of a 17th‐century Italian Composition at the National Harpsichord Competition in Pesaro in 2007. He is regularly invited to perform internationally and is often heard in conjunction with his ensemble Pizzicar Galante. This is his first release for Brilliant Classics.

This release presents a fascinating view of the cultural life of early 17th century Naples. The aristocracy surrounded themselves with artists of the highest calibre, and music was an essential part of the entertainment of the happy few.
The 25 works by 8 different composers on this CD are drawn from the famous ‘Luigi Rossi Manuscript’ from 1617. The most influential figure was Giovanni de Macque, whose complex polyphonic works full of daring chromatism had great influence on composers around and after him: Trabaci, Dall’Arpa, Lambardo, Stella and Gesualdo. Fabio Antonio Falcone, a passionate musician and scholar, selected several historical instruments to perform these keyboard works: the harpsichord and virginal, described in detail in the highly informative booklet notes, written by the artist.
Released to coincide with 400th anniversary of De Macque’s death.

Partite sopra 'la romanesca' / Stella --
Partite sopra 'il rogiero' / De Macque --
Partite sopra 'Zefiro' / Dall'Arpa --
Capriccietto / De Macque --
Toccata / Lambardo --
Canzon ; Canzon sopra 'Susanna' / Tartaglino --
Canzon / Stella --
Canzone 'cromatica' / Fillimarino --
Canzon chiamate 'le sue sorella' ; Prime stravaganze / De Macque --
Seconda breve canzon / Stella --
Prima gagliarda / De Macque --
Prima gagliarda / Trabaci --
Gagliarda / Lambardo --
Seconda gagliarda / De Macque --
Seconda gagliarda / Trabaci --
Capriccio sopra 're fa mi sol' / De Macque --
Canzon / Dall'Arpa --
Prima canzon ; Seconda canzon ; Toccata a modo di trombetta ; Seconde stravaganze / De Macque --
Canzona francese del principe / Gesualdo --
Partite sopra 'Fidele' / Lombardo.

Composer Info

Antonio DE CABEZÓN (c1510-1566), Francisco GUERRERO (1528-1599), Philippe VERDELOT (c1480/85-c1530/32), Cristóbal DE MORALES (c1500-1553), Tomás Luis DE VICTORIA (1548-1611), Juan VÁSQUEZ (c1500-c1560), Francisco DE LA TORRE (fl 1483-1504), Fabritio CAROSO (c1527/35-after 1605), Francesco DA MILANO (1497-1543), Alonso LOBO (1555-1617), Francisco DE PEÑALOSO (c1470-1528), Hernando DE CABEZÓN (1541-1602), JOSQUIN DESPREZ (c1450/55-1521), Claudio Merulo (1533-1604), Giovanni de Macque

CD Info

CD 95304, CD 95243, CD 94998