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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger


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Léonard de Vinci – l’Harmonie du monde

Mit ganzem [02:35]
Guillaume FAUGUES (15th c.)

Basse danse [03:26]
Francisco VAROTER (c1460-c1502)

Voi che passate (frottola) [02:51]

Quand la douce jouvencelle [02:49]

Amor che t’o fatto [03:09]
Ioan Ambrosio DALZA (f. 1502)

Pavana alla veneziana, saltarello, piva [03:41]
Poi che volse [01:39]
Bartolomeo TROMBONCINO (c1480-c1548)

Non val aqua (frottola) [05:52]
Marchetto CARA (end 15th c. – after 1525)

Cangia spera (instr) [01:33]
Cangia spera (frottola) [02:45]

Patienza [01:53]
Ansano SENESE (15th c.)

Noi siamo galeotti (frottola) [01:55]

Se é debile il filo (frottola) [03:07]
Pierre ATTAIGNANT (c1494-c1550)

Prélude [01:41]

Deh quanto è dolze [02:10]
Gerle PHALESE (16th c.)

Prélude [00:51]

Se congies prends* [05:51]
Se congies prends (instr) [01:33]
Se suis trop jeunette* [02:23]
Raulin DE VAUX (16th c.)

Je suis trop jeunette (instr) [01:20]
Jean RICHAFORT (c1480-c1548)

De mon triste déplaisir*
Doulce mémoire:
Anne Quentin* (soprano), Anne Azéma (mezzo-soprano), Denis Raison-Dadre, Francis Mercet, Jérémie Papasergio, Elsa Frank (flutes, shawm), Frédéric Martin (lira da braccio), Sylvia Abramowicz, Lucas Guimarães Peres, Martin Bauer (viola da gamba), Pascale Boquet (viola da mano, renaissance guitar), Angélique Mauillon (gothic harp), Bruno Caillat (percussion)
Recorded in January 2003 at Château de Chambord, France DDD
NAIVE E8883 [60:19]


One wouldn’t immediately associate the Italian renaissance painter and scientist Leonardo da Vinci with music. But he actually was a musician himself, and a very good one at that. The renaissance ideal was the ‘uomo universale’ and education aimed to teach as many skills as possible. No education was complete without music.

In his collection of biographies of the artists of his time, Vasari describes a number of architects, painters and sculptors which were also musicians, among them Da Vinci’s teacher Andrea Verrocchio. Da Vinci learned to play the ‘lira da braccio’. This instrument was very popular in the renaissance, as it was associated with Orpheus and Apollo. The booklet says, "The lira da braccio (...) has seven strings (..), two of which act as a drone. The flat bridge allows for chords to be played. (...) The lira was used to accompany singing, and because of the absence of a bass-bar or soundposts its harmonic spectrum was very wide: it created a halo around the voice, giving it greater eloquence, and thus enhancing the expressive power of Renaissance orators, poets and musicians."

One popular form of playing the lira da braccio was ‘cantar alla viola’, where the player improvised poetry or recited works from the Roman and Greek antiquity to his own accompaniment. Because of the improvised nature of lira-playing no examples of this practice have come down to us. This CD contains one piece which gives some idea of what such an improvisation may have sounded like: the frottola ‘Voi che passate’ by Francisco Varoter.

Leonardo da Vinci travelled a lot. It brought along the idea of selecting music associated with the cities Da Vinci visited. Since sacred music was more or less universal in character, the choice was made to concentrate on secular music, which varied from one city to the other.

The ‘journey’ begins in Florence, where Leonardo da Vinci was born and spent the first 30 years of his life. Strangely enough, only one track is associated with Florence. After that Milan (1490 – 1499), Mantua (1499 – 1501), Rome (1513 – 1517) follow. In 1517 Leonardo went to France at the invitation of François I. Therefore the last section of this recording is devoted to French music.

Since Da Vinci played the lira da braccio this instrument does appear in a number of tracks. There is a picture of such an instrument in the booklet, and the instrument sounds as gorgeous as it looks. It is really a very expressive instrument, and excellently suited to accompany the voice, as the piece mentioned above demonstrates. And Frédéric Martin plays it very well indeed.

The other instrumentalists are also excellent. And both Anne Quentin and Anne Azéma have beautiful voices, very appropriate for this kind of music. I particularly liked the way Ms Azéma sings Tromboncino’s frottola ‘Non val acqua’. I am a little surprised, though, that in the vocal pieces of French origin at the end of the CD there is hardly any ornamentation, although these are all strophic.

I also wondered about the scoring of the ‘Basse danse’ by Guillaume Faugues. The ‘basse danse’ is described in the booklet as "the most refined and elegant of the courtly dances". But in the performance here, with shawms and percussion, it doesn’t sound very ‘elegant and refined’.

But this CD contains a lot of little known music and the singing and playing is excellent. This ensemble proves again that it is one of the most imaginative around. I hope to hear more from them in the future.

Johan van Veen

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