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Intavolatura di Lauto
Michelagnolo GALILEI (1575-1632)
Sonata in F minor [9.19]
Sonata in B flat major [5.58]
Sonata in C minor [10.46]
Sonata in C major [7.47]
Toccata in D minor [7.06]
Sonata in G major [6.23]
Sonata in A minor [6.39]
Toccata in F major [2.25]
Vincenzo GALILEI (1520-1591)
Alcun non puo saper
[1.42]
Fantasia Terza [1.47]
Calliope [2.21]
Polymnia [1.47]
Urania [1.39]
Anthony Bailes (lute)
rec. July 2013, Schloss Beuggen, Rheinfelden, Germany
RAMÉE RAM1306 [65.55]

If you had been around in Italy in c.1590 you may well have heard of Vincenzo Galilei, a leading lutenist in Venice and elsewhere in northern Italy. You may well have heard also of his precocious prodigy of a son, Michelagnolo who was, it seems already composing competently. You would not have heard of his older son Galileo, a late developer but whose invention in his early 40s of the telescope was to be a turning pointing in the history of science. If you had lived on a further eighty years you may have come across another Galilei, Alberto Caesare who succeeded his father Michelagnolo as court lutenist in Munich. Yes, Germany not Italy that is where the musical side of the family ultimately settled. It’s also worth saying that the great Galileo was also a fine lutenist and it seems bought strings and instruments for his brother and sent them on to Germany.
 
I glean all of this and could write more, from the fascinating notes and essays that accompany this CD by Anthony Bailes himself: one about the composer and a second entitled ‘Notes on the Music and Instrument’. It’s worth adding however that Vincenzo was himself interested in what we could call ‘Musical Science’ with his researches into string tension and a consequent study of pitch. He also composed madrigals in a more monodic style being interested in Greek drama. On this disc he is represented by short arrangements he made of his own songs. These are found in his collection of 1584 and contains pieces composed, so we are told, by Michelagnolo and published in his name, aged just nine. Vincenzo’s earlier collection of 1568 contained pieces called ‘Fantasias’ one of which is included here.
 
If I had to pick one immediate difference between father and son in their musical styles I might, as a general view, say that Vincenzo seems to be more of a renaissance man and his son early baroque. One reason is the fact that Michelagnolo gathered his pieces into Suites in related keys. I was quite surprised by this at first. In addition his style is very French and reminded me of Robert de Visée (1665-1732) - clearly a much later figure.
 
Michelagnolo uses Italian titles within the Suites. His Toccatas, which are curiously reflective, open each suite. Then there are Correntes, in the A minor Suite two but in the C minor Suite three consecutively. The Saltarello and Volta also appear. The C major Suite has a Toccata followed by four movements marked Volta, the dance considered quite ‘rude’ in Elizabethan England. There are a couple of Passamezzos, a dance also more of the 16th century. In contrast the D minor Toccata falls into three sections, none of them especially ‘flashy’ and all quite wistful and improvisatory.
 
A fascinating mélange then, and published in 1620 when, in Germany, composers like Schein were also gathering together Suites of dances around a given key centre.
 
Anthony Bailes has clearly made a study of this music and presents it with character and clarity. In this he is aided by a lovely, rich recording. He plays a 10-string lute made by Paul Thomson in Bristol although Vincenzo apparently preferred six-course instruments. Bailes explains his choice in the notes.
 
You may think that this is probably more a collection for the specialist and perhaps it is. However, late one evening in early June when it was still warm my wife and I sat outside with a glass of red and Michelagnolo’s music coming out of the open conservatory door. I got to thinking that this was probably how it might originally have been heard.

Gary Higginson