Stylems: Italian Music from the Trecento
ANONYMOUS (14th century)
Che ti zova nasconder el bel volto? [5:10]
Egidius Da FRANCIA (2nd half of 14th century)
Alta serena luce [3:30]
Aquila altera [2:55]
Bartolino da PADOVA (c.1365-1405)
Per un verde boschetto [2:39]
Donato da FIRENZE (2nd half of 14th century)
Senti tu d’amor [2:51]
Faccia chi de’ se’l po’ [2:53]
Paolo da FIRENZE (c.1355-c.1436)
Benché partito da te [3:29]
Amor, tu solo ‘l sai [2:51]
Quando i oselli canta [2:45]
Paolo da FIRENZE (c.1355-c.1436)
Che l’agg’i’ fatto a questa donna altera
Gherardello da FIRENZE (c.1320-5-1362/3)
La bella e la veççosa cabriola [3:05]
Pescando in aqua dolce [2:45]
Bartolino da PADOVA
Qual lege move la voluble rota? [4:10]
Egidius da FRANCIA (2nd half of 14th century)
Mille merzede, Amor, che tratto m’hai [3:00]
Paolo da FIRENZE (c.1355-c.1436)
Chi vuol veder l’angelica bellezza [4:15]
O crudel donna [2:48]
Cu ti zova nasconder el bel volto [5:08]
Ensemble Syntagma: Mami Irisawa (soprano), Akira Tachikawa (counter-tenor), Bernhard Stilz (recorders), Benoît Stasiascyk (percussion), Sophia Danilevski (tromba marina), Alexandre Danilevski (medieval lutes, colichon, fiddle, checker/clavichord, portative organ, director), plus Anne Rongy (fiddle), M. Art (harp)
rec. 5-7 July 2007, Chapelle Saint-Augustin, Bitche, France

Alexandre Danilevski’s Ensemble Syntagma deservedly has a high reputation and this exploration of Italian music of the 1300s will enhance that reputation further still. The sympathetic understanding which underlies these performances blends scholarship and imagination, fidelity and freedom, in thoroughly attractive fashion.

Instruments and voices are deployed with ungimmicky variety and with unshowy awareness of effect. Some of the pieces here are miniatures of remarkable beauty and sophistication. Take ‘Alta serena luce’, for example, in which the voices of Mami Irisawa and Akira Tachikawa combine with the sound of the harp in a delicate musical response, part amorous part spiritual, to a text which hovers on the boundary of sacred and profane:

Alta serena luce
io veggio ben omai
che dove vai ogni piacer riluce.
Ogni piacer riluce, donna mia,
appresso dove tuo biltà si posa;
e quando movi d’una parte via
amaro pianto lassa lei dogliosa.

[High serene light,
now it is clear to me
that where you are all pleasures take new light.
All pleasures take a new light, my lady,
in places where your beauty appears;
and when you depart from anywhere
sadness and bitter tears are left behind]

Is ‘my lady’ a secular beloved, or the Virgin Mary? It is in the ambiguity that much of the power of text and music alike resides, and this lovely performance evokes that liminal territory quite beautifully.

There are more robust pleasures elsewhere, as in Bartolino da Padova’s balata ‘Per un verde boschetto’, with its imagery of pursuit and hope, or in the purely instrumental ‘Faccia chi de’ se’ l po’’ by Donata da Firenze, a playful and evocative caccia. But even here there is an underlying delicacy and subtlety.

Particularly intriguing is Paolo da Firenze’s ‘Amor, tu solo’. The text voices a lamenting lover’s address to Love, and is expressive of the lover’s tears and infinite woes, his sense that is death cannot be far way as he burns with unrequited love. Yet much in music seems almost at odds with the sentiments, having a liveliness of manner that sets up a kind of discrepancy, so that the composer seems almost to be laughing mildly at the excessiveness of the lover’s self pity.

Such a sophistication is part of the larger complexity and subtlety which characterises both the instrumental and vocal music of the Ars Nova and it is a delight to see such sympathetic performers as Ensemble Syntagma willing to explore – with such fruitful results – some of the less familiar repertoire of this important phase in Italian music.

Glyn Pursglove