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Era di maggio … : Italian music of the 16th and 17th century
Era di Maggio [1:23]
Paolo SCOTO (XVI century)
Turlurlu la capra è moza [2:28]
Zorzi [0:54]
Bartolomeo TROMBONCINO (1470-c.1536)
Vergine bella [2:04]
Andrea ANTICO (1478-c.1556)
Vergine bella che del sol vestita [2:28]
Pan de miglio caldo [2:32]
Francesco PATAVINO (c.1478-1556)
Un Cavalier di Spagna [3:23]
Giorgio MAINIERO (c.1535-1582)
Ballo francese [1:24]
Ballo inglese [1:22]
Putta nera ballo furlano [1:29]
Ludovico FOGLIANO (c.1475-c.1542)
La zotta [1:34]
La pastorella si leva per tempo [3:25]
El bisson [1:26]
La rocha el fuso [0:42]
Giovanni DA NOLA (c.1510-c.1592)
Cingari simo [1:57]
Gabriele FALLAMELO (XVI century)
Siate avvertiti [4:05]
Johannes Hieronymus KAPSBERGER (c.1580-1661)
Toccata Quinta [3:12]
Giovanni Felice SANCES (1600-1679)
Cntada a voce sola sopra il passacaglie [7:01]
Angelo NOTARI (1566-c.1664)
Canzone Passaggiata [4:43]
Giovanni STEFANI (XVII century)
Ninfa Sconoscente [4:10]
Giovanni Battista RICCIO (XVI-XVII centuries)
Jubilent omnes [4:31]
Canzon la grimaneta [4:31]
Giuseppe GIAMBERTI (c.1600-c.1662)
Villan di Spagna [1:16]
Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643)
Canzona ottava detta ‘l’ambitiosa  [3:33]
Vincenzo CALESTANI (1589-after 1617)
Damigella tutta bella [2:24]
Ensemble del Riccio: Marco Beasley (voice, percussion, bells); Lorenzo Girodo (flutes, crumhorn); Luca Bonvini (sackbut); Ottavio Dantone (spinet, harpsichord); Giorgio Ferraris (lute, theorbo, chitarrino); Gianni Rivolta (flutes)
rec. 1990. DDD
CONCERTO CD 2017 [67:01]

This is a pleasant, if unremarkable, miscellany of some aspects of the music of the Italian Renaissance. The CD booklet tells us that “the compositions contained in this album constitute a wide and varied anthology of the vocal and instrumental music which flourished in Italy between the end of the 1400s and the first half of the 1600s”. That’s a lot of ground to cover, and the result is a CD which suffers from the sheer heterogeneity of the music on it. It was recorded in 1990, but no mention is made of any earlier release. Even in the sixteen years since 1990 the expectations of the audience for this music have changed. We now expect more specialised programming – programming by genre or location or narrower time-span, for example, or, where possible, by single composer. This CD contains some examples of the frottola, for example, the secular song form popular in the Italy of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; here they take their place amongst instrumental pavans and galliards and other kinds of vocal music, such as Riccio’s early cantata ‘Jubilent omnes’. Understanding of the form, and a fuller appreciation of its various nature, is however more readily to be had from a CD such as that by Marco Beasley (the vocalist on the present CD) and Accordone, Frottole on Cypres (CYP1643). 

Beasley is an interesting figure. He was born in Naples, son of an English father and a Neapolitan mother, he studied singing and the performing arts in Bologna. A meeting – and a brief period of study, cut short by her early death – with Cathy Berberian influenced him profoundly. He has an attractive tenor voice, and his performances here – especially in some of the more lyrical pieces, such as the anonymous ‘La pastorella si leva per tempo’, which sets lines by the Florentine poet and scholar Angelo Poliziano – are generally very pleasing. In some of the faster numbers he sings with rather less tonal variety than has characterised his later work. Another of the members of the Riccio Ensemble has, of course, also gone on to bigger and better things. Ottavio Dantone is perhaps now best known as director of the Accademia Bizantina, based in Ravenna, responsible for excellent recordings such as that of Vivaldi’s opera Tito Manlio on Naïve OP30413 (see review). He has also made some fine recordings as a solo harpsichordist (see reviews 1 and 2). On the present CD he is largely restricted to continuo work, although his performance of Andrea Antico’s intabulation of Tromboncino’s ‘Vergine bella’ is well worth hearing. Talking of what happened to the members of Ensemble Riccio in later years, presumably the Luca Bonvini who plays the sackbut here is the same Luca Bonvini who, as a jazz trumpeter and trombonist, has gone on to play with many leading avant-garde musicians, such as Anthony Braxton and Muhal Richard Abrams?

The booklet notes talk at some length about the various musical genres represented here, but say almost nothing about the performers or about the composers. This last is particularly unfortunate as they are by no means all household names. What is useful is that we are given the sources of each piece, whether in a printed text or in a manuscript. That Angelo Notari’s ‘Canzone passagiata’ should be taken from British Library Add. MS 31440 is a reminder that the Paduan Notari was in England by 1612, amongst the musicians in the golden circle around Prince Henry, that he was a prime agent in spreading knowledge of Italian music in England, and that in one role or another he was in London until his death in 1663, aged 93! In his last years he was associated with Henry Purcell senior, father of the composer.

Era di maggio provokes many such lines of thought, and it makes for pleasant listening, even if the recorded balance is sometimes a little odd. But unless desperate to get hold of a recording of a particular piece included in Ensemble Riccio’s programme, then most collectors of Renaissance Italian music are perhaps not likely to put this near the very top of their shopping list.

Glyn Pursglove




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