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Raphael (1483 1520) – Music of his Time
Alexander AGRICOLA (1446 – 1506) Gaudeamus omnes
Johannes GHISELIN (early 16th century) La Spagna
Johannes de STOKEM (c. 1445 after 1501) Je suis d’Allemagne
Guglielmo Ebreo Da PESARO (c. 1425 after 1480) Falla con misuras
Domenico Da PIACENZA (died c. 1470) Ballo ‘La Giloxia’
Antonio ALAMANNI Carro della more
Marchetto CARA (c.1470 ?1525) Non e tempo
Josquin DESPREZ (c. 1450 1521) In pace; El grillo
ANONYMOUS Ave regina coelorum; O decus innocentie; Ave Maris Stella; Chiara fontana; Laude e grazie; J’ay pris amours; Pavana ‘le forze d’Hercole; Saltarello ‘Giorgio’; Paduana; Galliarda; La pastorella; L’altr’hier de la mia villa; In questo ballo; In questo ballo; Petit riense
Ensemble Unicorn
Agnes Boll (soprano)
Pascal Bertin (countertenor)
Bernd Lambauer (tenor)
Colin Mason (baritone)
Peter Rabanser (voice, tambourine)
Marco Ambrosini (fiddle, keyed, fiddle)
Thomas Wimmer (fiddle, lute)
Pierre Pitzl (renaissance guitar)
Riccardo Delfino (renaissance harp, hurdy gurdy)
Katharina Dustmann (tambourine, frame drum)
Wolfgang Reithofer (percussion)
Michael Posch (director, recorder)
Recorded 5 -8 February 2002, Palais Gentz
NAXOS 8.558119 [64.18]
 

 

The arts of Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci form the basis for the western visual arts. Their arts and techniques were followed and built upon by countless artists working over the centuries in painting, sculpture and architecture. Their direct influence could easily be traced through to artists working in the 19th century. But it is a curious anomaly that most musicians working in the 19th century would have lacked a parallel appreciation of Raphael’s musical contemporaries. Developments in music have meant that the music of Alexander Agricola, Josquin Desprez and their contemporaries dropped completely from sight and had to be rediscovered during the 20th century as part of a process whereby the music was explored in parallel with the rediscovery of older modes of performance.

This attractive recital, part of a Naxos series which associates music with the great artists, puts together a group of pieces that Raphael might have heard. Well into the 16th century, the musicians employed at the Northern Italian courts were predominantly French or Flemish. The native Italian tradition is represented by songs known as ‘frottole’, with their melodic top part, instrumental accompaniment and strong harmonic bass. Later in the 16th century, it is this form which would develop into the better known Italian madrigal.

The music on this disc mixes frottole with the more complex French chansons. With music by Josquin and Agricola as well as Marchetto Cara (a favourite of Isabella d’Este), Johannes Ghiselind and Johannes de Stokem (these two latter were both anthologised in the early 16th century by the Venetian printer Petrucci. It is Petrucci who is a key figure in our knowledge of this music; his books of motets and 11 books of frottole are an important source of our knowledge.

The singers and musicians of Ensemble Unicorn play this music attractively and infectiously. Methods of presentation of this type of music have varied over the years as elaborated orchestration of the music was replaced by a more puritan method of presentation. Ensemble Unicorn favour quite elaborate orchestrations. This works well in the movements presented as purely dance movements, but there were times that I felt they overdid things in the vocal movements. I would have liked more songs sung with a simple accompaniment. But there is no doubt that the performances are attractive and will appeal to many people. Where the disc falls down is in the opening group of sacred pieces. Here the same principles of orchestration have been applied, so that Agricola’s ‘Gaudeamus omnes’ is performed as a chant sung by the baritone with two countermelodies carried by recorders. The result is rather strange and not satisfactory. Similarly, Josquin’s ‘In pace’ is performed as a solo accompanied by strings and recorders. I would certainly have preferred a more austere presentation of the sacred pieces. This would have created a contrast with the secular ones. Though, at the time, sacred and secular pieces partook of the same material I think it is unhelpful to perform them all using the same methods.

Robert Hugill

see also review by Bill Kenny

 



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