> Music and Art in Renaissance Florence [PW]: Classical Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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  Founder: Len Mullenger

1. Anon. Saltarello el francosin
2. A. Coppini Tanto è la donna mia
3. Josquin Des Prez A líheure que je vous
4, Anon. Rompeltier
5. Anon. Helas la fille Guillemin
6. B. Tromboncino Hor cheíl ciel e la terra
7. J. Japart Amours amours amours
8. L Compère Le grant désir
9, A. Busnois Je ne fay plus
10. Anon. Dit le burguygnon
11. A Bruhier Latura tu
12. Anon. Pavana el bisson
13. Anon. Gagliarda la traditora
14. Anon. Se mai per maraviglia
15. J. A. Dalza Pavana alla venetiana
16. J. A. Dalza Saltarello
17. J. A. Dalza Piva
18. B. Tromboncino Vergine bella
19. Anon. Petits vriens
20. Anon. Hor oires un chanson
21. H. Isaac La morra
22. M. Cara Hor vendutí ho la speranza
Recordings made in St Georgeís Church, Chesterton, Cambridge on 28-30 April 1997
Concordia directed by Mark Levy
METRONOME CD 1023 [72í27"]
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The richness that has been left to musicians by the renaissance in Florence is a treasure trove beyond compare. That there should have been such a tremendous outpouring of artistic creativity for such a sustained period, and of such a consistent quality has been a constant source of fascination to musicians and historians alike, almost since the time of its creation. The sheer quantity of music making that must have taken place in Florence throughout the 15th century, at the end of which most of the music on this disc was written, is breathtaking. This activity is reflected not only in surviving copies of the music, or in original instruments of the time, put also is depicted frequently by the painters of the era. Many such paintings have found their way into the National Gallery in London, and this disc is a collaborative effort between the gallery and Metronome. As with all the National Galleryís products, the presentation is excellent, and the whole package has the feel of careful planning and marketing. For people looking for a way in to the repertoire of renaissance music this type of disc is a good bet. The programme is varied and not demanding of the listener in any way. The performances are generally excellent.

These features notwithstanding, there is something somewhat old fashioned about the listening experience. Almost invariably, the production brief would have included the words "accessibility" and "variety" and these are indeed here in abundance. The programme is very varied indeed; from the rather austere beauty of Hor vendutí ho la speranza by the obscure "M. Cara" (whose name is not given completion and who does not warrant a mention in the accompanying notes) to the anonymous, but very well known song Rompeltier via some of the most famous pieces of the solo lute repertoire in the renaissance. (Samples 1 and 2) The songs are sung by Robin Blaze, in fine form, accompanied by an expanded Concordia. This ensemble, usually just a viol consort, has acquired the services of the excellent Liz Kenny for the Lute solos and some admirable wind players blowing shawms, cornetti, sackbuts and bagpipes.

It is all very well done, but for the renaissance enthusiast there is a strange sense of deja vu in that it is impossible not to think that the listener has been transported back in time to the 1970s and Jordi Savallís group Hesperion XX, who recorded much of this repertoire for EMI. A good example is track 5 (sample 3) which appeared on Savallís disc Renaissance Music from Naples. This underlines the problem with much of the programming - it is all interesting music, and very well performed, but the connections with Florence are often tenuous. Much of the repertoire is taken from the famous print Odhecaton by Petrucci, but Petrucci was a Venetian publisher. Similarly, pieces like sample 3 are as Neapolitan as they are Florentine, and the number of French chansons seems to be difficult to justify by Medici marriages alone. The feel is of rather haphazard programming, largely of the well-known highlights of the repertoire, and the performances are just too similar in style and instrumentation to avoid comparison with Jordi Savall. Although these performances are very good, there is a passion in Savallís version of much of this music that is well nigh impossible to beat. This disc would make a good gift for someone unfamiliar with the repertoire, but is possibly too much of a potpourri to be of much use to the Florentine aficionado.

Peter Wells


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