> Music for Mona Lisa METCD1023[JW]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb-International

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Saltarello el francosin
Helas la fille Guillemin
Dit le burguygnon
Pavana el bison
Gagliarda la traditora
Se mai per maraveglia
Petits vriens
Hor oires un chanson
Tanto e la donna mia
A lheure que je vous p.x.
Hor chel ciel e la terra
Vergine bella
Amours amours amours
Le grant desir
Je ne fay plus
Pavana alla venetiana
La morra
Hor venduto la speranza
Robin Blaze, counter-tenor
Mark Levy, director
Recorded St Georges Church, Chesterton, Cambridge April 1997
METRONOME MET CD1023 [72.27]


Experience Classicsonline

"While he was painting Mona Lisa he engaged musicians who played and continually jested and so he drew forth that smile so pleasing.." So wrote Giorgio Vasari in his Lives of the Artists in 1550 and despite Vasaris questionable attributions and chronologies it is true that Leonardo himself once wrote that "the painters house is accompanied by music or readings." And so this disc insinuatingly amplifies these teasing references by giving us a conspectus of contemporary secular music such as may, conjecturally, have been heard by Leonardo. Its an attractive pretext anyway. Concordias four viols are joined by lute, wind and a percussionist as well as cornett, shawm, bagpipes and other Renaissance impedimenta. Musically Northern European sources predominate because the German and Flemish schools were especially active and influential in Italy Josquin himself lived, as did Leonardo, in Milan whilst Isaac spent many years in Florence.

There are a number of rumbustious folk and courtly dances, many of whose composers are now lost to us, not least the opening Saltarello and the catchy lute pieces, principally a Pavane and Galliard. There is an extravagant bagpipe excursion in the anonymous setting of Petits vriens, triumphantly exciting. The beautiful cornett led Hor oires un chanzon should not be overlooked; its sonorities are exquisitely drawn and the viols own eloquence can best be felt in the pieces by Josquin and Japart in performances of affirmatory motion and real depth. There is another aspect to this recital and that is the singing of the counter-tenor Robin Blaze. He has a nicely equalized voice, with great reserves of tonal purity; light, clear, well layered, flexible and seldom indulging in over expressive singing. Instead he mines the text in the interest of subtlety of inflection and nuance and like another young counter-tenor, William Purefoy, he has the gifts of simplicity, directness and unforced control. He begins Comperes Le grant desir unaccompanied and is then joined successively by lute, viol ensemble and percussion; the varied instrumental forces, their delayed introduction and insouciant development and Blazes own spirited musicality are all vibrant and joyous aspects of this and other songs. He takes Busnois Je ne fay plus at a steady but slow tempo, sustaining the line with varieties of little inflective devices, if very occasionally tempting the curve of the line to break. His floated high voice in Latura tu is impressive whilst his runs here are faultless and never preeningly self congratulatory. His lower voice is well supported and sustained; no breaks in register. Equally impressive is his expansive singing of Se mai per maraveglia note his hardening tone at the words "inganno" (sin) and "danno" (damnation). This is a singer of tonal beauty and imagination. Mark Levy directs Concordia (superbly) and wrote the booklet notes. Something of a triumph.

Jonathan Woolf


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