In the 16th Century, Antwerp and Leuven were
major centres of printing. Pierre Phalese (Petrus Phalesius)
was based in Leuven and started out as a bookseller. In 1551
he started his own music printing house, printing music from
movable type. To reach a wider audience, in 1570 he entered
into partnership with Jean Bellere (Bellerus) a printer based
in Antwerp. His output included the sacred (masses, motets,
magnificats) and the secular (chansons, pieces in French
lute entablature), written by composers such as Clemens non
Papa, Lassus and Rore.
One of Phalese’s main rivals was Tielman Susato. Susato
was born in Cologne, but from 1529 worked in Antwerp as a
copyist, cathedral musician and town instrumentalist. He
started music publishing in 1543 and his last publication
dates from 1561. He was the most important printer in the
Netherlands, printing music by Janequin, Josquin, Lassus,
Rore, Willaert and Clemens non Papa.
His printing materials were inherited by Christoph Plantin
and Phalese’s move to Antwerp may have been to forestall
competition from Plantin. Phalese’s firm was continued by
his sons and then his grand-daughters and flourished into
the 17th century.
Such a history would be interesting enough to form the
basis for a CD, but for some reason the music on this new
disc, much of it originally published by Susato and Phalese,
has been linked to the painter Peter Paul Rubens.
Undoubtedly Rubens would have heard much of the dance
music played in this disc. Much of the dance music of the
time was common to both aristocracy and middle-class, so
we can imagine that Rubens heard music such as this. Whether
this is any value to us, is a moot point. Perhaps it helps
to recreate Rubens’ world. But for some reason, the publishers
have chosen to illustrate the booklet with examples of Rubens’ sacred
art. A disc of dance music should surely have been illustrated
by his secular pictures; then there would have been scope
for a disc of sacred music related to the altar pieces that
Rubens painted for the churches in Amsterdam.
That said, the music on the disc is attractive and at
times quite toe-tapping. A variety of types of dance music
is included. This was a period when the older dances of aristocratic
origin, the basse-dance, pavane and galliard, were being
replaced by others such as the bransle, allemande, courante
and ungaresca. Though many types were common to aristocracy
and middle-class, such dances as the ungaresca and saltarello
had popular origins.
Phalesius’s attractive Suite de Dance (Allemande I – II
et II; Allemande et Courante; Premiere Bransle Commune; Bransle
Gay I et II), Gombert’s two lute fantasies and Phalesius’s
Assiste parata pour deux luths all come from Phalesius’s
important publication Hortus Musarum from 1552, a book of
lute entablatures. Susatos’s La Bataille and Basses Dances
come from his own 3ième livre.
The Consortium Antiquum give lively accounts of the
music; they are an attractive-sounding ensemble. The booklet
does not state who arranged the entablatures for instrumental
ensemble, so I presume the group’s arrangements are their
own. These arrangements are apposite, never over-doing the
instrumentation. Tempi are lively and none of the pieces
out-stays its welcome.
There are moments when the recording seems a little
too acidic, but this might be attributed to its apparent
It would be possible to imagine a more sophisticated
performance of the music, but the players manage to conjure
up an attractive picture of people dancing and enjoying themselves
in Rubens’ Antwerp.
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