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Mundus et Musica - Instrumental Music in Spain and Flanders c.1500
see end of review for track listing
Anna Danilevskaia (fiddle); Christophe Deslignes (organetto)
Qualia/Lambert Colson (recorders and cornetti)
rec. 26-29 June 2012, Chapelle del la Vierge, Château de Magnitot, Saint-Gervais, France
CARPE DIEM CD 16294 [53.17]

Here we have twenty pieces, several of which, the ones in two parts in fact, come from a single manuscript ‘The Segovia (Cathedral) Codex’. The interesting and detailed booklet notes by Fabrice Fitch describe it as “ one of the most idiosyncratic and fascinating witnesses to the music of the late fifteenth century”. Its contents feature the master composers from Flanders. Many of these composers had Spanish connections through the mingling of marriages in the 1490s of the house of Aragon with the children of Maximilian I and Mary of Burgundy. All of them were of the very musical nobility and the music reflects this cultural interchange.
The CD offers only instrumental performances as composers “frequently took a voice from an existing polyphonic chanson as the basis of a new work”. The Segovia manuscript has several works which consist of a single line, or two lines as in the pieces drawn from other sources. These have been added to an already existing voice. The other sources, listed in the booklet, include two from the Florence Bibliotheca from which comes the Tinctoris arrangement of Ockeghem’s popular D’ung aultre amer.
The group Qualia is made up of only three performers. They play fiddle, organetto, recorders and cornetto (all modern copies). In other words we hear some of the most expressive instruments of the middle ages. These three musicians are really sensitive players responsive to the general style of the mid-renaissance and to each other. The cornetto was thought to be the nearest thing to the human voice. When played so beautifully as this by Lambert Colson - note especially Compère’s Le Grant desir, - one can see why. The instrumentation varies from track to track.
The composers represented include the extraordinary Alexander Agricola with five compositions. He always seems to stand out in such a context. His sense of fantasy and his contrapuntal skill sometimes leave me almost breathless as in Cecus non judicat de coloribus. Other pieces sound somewhat old-fashioned. Curiously this applies to Tout a par moy by that arch-theorist Johannes Tinctoris. It’s good to have so many pieces by him available here.
You will have noticed from the titles that we are mixing sacred and secular repertoire. Fray Benito’s Kyrie and Gloria rubs shoulders with Tinctoris’s take on Robert Morton’s famous song Le souvenir and the neo-erotic song De tous bien playne originally by Hayne van Ghizegen. There is even an example of a basse-danse using the La Spagna tenor by one Magister Guliemus. In all of these either the plainchant, or the original tune are embedded in the texture either as a cantus firmus or as the basis of an improvisation, captured in the manuscript. In Brumel’s Tandernac the fiddle opens up alone with the sustained line around which the piece is based. Then the organetto and treble recorder dance ecstatically around it with their happy counterpoint. Of the twelve two-part pieces from Segovia mention should be made of the secular song Comme femme and the Latin-texted Gaudeamus omnes. Both are by Agricola and, invariably, the tenor notes are given to the fiddle, which after all is best at sustaining long pitches.
Most of the composers are well known but Bartolemeus Ramis de Pareia is a new name I think. He was a Spanish mathematician as well as a music theorist. Fray Benito, also a Spaniard, is a composer of whom I can tell you nothing.
It must be agreed that this is a somewhat specialist CD. It’s possible that, at fifty-three minutes, you might feel somewhat short-changed by this disc but the playing is so fine and the repertoire so rare and pleasing that you could almost play the disc right through again without feeling all that bleary-eyed.
Gary Higginson 

Track listing

Antoine BRUMEL (1460-1512)
Alexander AGRICOLA (1445-1506)
Gaudeamus omnes in Domineo
Alez Regretz (after Hayne von Ghizegen) [5.52]
Comme femme [2.05];
Cecus non judicat de coloribus [5.02]
Princesse de toute beaulte [1.58]
Bartolomeus RAMIS DE PAREIA (1440-1522)
Mundus et musica et tortus concentus
Johannes TINCTORIS (1435-1511)
Le Souvenir
D‘ung aultre amer
(after Ockeghem) [2.14]
De tous bien playne [1.46]
Elaes Abrayam [2.16]
Aleluya [1.33]
Fray BENITO (c.1500)
Kyrie [3.15]
Gloria [3.42]
Tout a par moy [2.54]
Loyset COMPÈRE (1445-1518)
Beaulte damours [2.05]
Le grant desir d’aymer m’y tient [1.33]
Canon Undecim apstoli secure sunt Petrum [1.30]
Ave Sanctissima [2.33]
Magister GULIEMUS (Gugliemo Ebreo de Pesaro)
La Spagna/Falle con misuras [3.03]