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Vincenzo CAPIROLA (1474-c.1550)
Non ti spiacqua l’ascoltar - works for lute (1517)
see end of review for track-listing
Paolo Cherici (lute and vihuela)
rec. May 2013, no other details given
TACTUS TC470301 [67.05]

Capirola was one of the finest composers and lutenists of his day and there have been few opportunities to hear a full disc of his music. The background to this collection is fascinating and worth mentioning before we continue.
 
The back of the CD booklet has a beautiful reproduction of a manuscript not surprisingly called the ‘Capirola Notebook’. This is an example of lute tablature in the form of a transcription by Capirola of the mass fragment Qui tolis pechata mondi (sic) from an unnamed Josquin Mass. It is set on a six-line stave with fingerings given and some rhythmic indications. This manuscript was copied by a pupil of Capirola’s named Vidal who probably hailed form Venice. Capirola himself was based there by 1517 and some of the titles use Venetian dialect. To quote the booklet notes by Paolo Cherici, Vidal copied it “in order to transmit it to posterity” and goes on “I decided to adorn it with such noble pictures as to ensure that if it should fall into the hands of someone lacking in this knowledge, the beauty of the pictures would preserve it”. These tend to be skilfully drawn and coloured animals and birds, which surround the music, there is even a nude lady playing the bagpipes. So his teacher’s works was preserved in a unique way.
 
Otto Janos Gombosi edited the manuscript and transcribed it in the early 1950s. There are forty-two pieces in all and Cherici has recorded twenty-two seemingly representative ones. So what kind of style do we hear and why are these pieces special?
 
For me it is the Recercars, early examples of the form, which are the most original ... even quite startling. Nine are recorded in a somewhat random order but it's quite interesting to set your machine to play them in numerical order although there is no perceptible stylistic change. They tend to take the form of a opening prelude moving into a sort of toccata idea alternating chordal passages with more virtuoso running passages. Capirola’s examples are often fairly polyphonic and can begin with quite an arresting idea. Recercar No. 19 begins high with a falling scalic idea, monophonic for a while before developing with sequential writing. A second idea is chordal and falls into another descending sequence. Recercar No. 1 starts monophonically and the idea is developed canonically in the other ‘voices’ into some quite intriguing modulations. Much the same applies to Recercar No. 5 except that the opening is more extravert at first before becoming suddenly homophonic with a falling sequence (again) and later a rising one articulated suddenly in compound time. In all of these Capirola is ‘searching out’ his imagination and allowing it to move as he wants with freedom and imagination.
 
There are also arrangements and variants on popular songs and dances. These tend to be more homophonic with a clear melody although the passing notes and ornamentation can obscure things somewhat. This happens to Ghizeghem’s well known De to biens plaene (sic). Another example is La Vilanella and the frottola variants of Marchetto Cara and Tromboncino, two of the leading exponents of the form. The CD takes it name from one such popular song Non ti spiaqua l'ascoltar which includes what is thought to be the first ever dynamic marking when the composer asks for "tocca pian piano" – play (or touch) very softly. The first track with its curious title Ti[entalona] baleto da balar is a dance, quite unlike anything else on the CD. It has a melody, based at first over a chord sequence and then later over a pedal note. Paduana which is a Pavan and Spagna are also dance forms.
 
Three Mass fragments, as mentioned above are also included. These are by Josquin and Antoine de Fevin. One wonders when these were played but perhaps private domestic establishments would have regarded them as an essential part of prayers at the end of a day.
 
Paolo Cherici plays a 1981 lute by Paul Thomson but he also uses a vihuela made in 1995 by Giuseppe Tumiati for seven of the tracks. Its tuning is the same as that of the lute but although Spanish in origin was known in Italy. He chooses to use it for the Spanish-based pieces and also for "technical and musical" reasons. The recording is natural and clear and it seems to me the performances are ideal.
 
I have reviewed much renaissance lute music in recent times but this is a composer and a lutenist to whom I will turn again for sheer pleasure and curiosity.
 
Gary Higginson
 
Track-Listing
 
1. Ti [entalona] baleto da balar [3.03]
2. Canto bello [3.29]
3. Padoana ala francese [4.00]
4. De to biens plaene (Ghizeghem) [2.29]
5. Recercar V [3.35]
6. Non si spiaqua lascoltar [2.51]
7. Recercar XIII [2.42]
8. Stravasi amir dormendo (Tromboncino) [1.55]
9. O mia cieca e dura sort (Cara) [3.09]
10. Recercar X ala spagnola & Spagna seconda [5.00]
11. Padoana descordata [3.29]
12. Recercar XII [4.47]
13. Sancta Termitas (Fevin) [3.31]
14. Recercar IV [2.55]
15. Recercar I [2.46]
16. Gentil prince [2.24]
17. Recercar VIII [1.29]
18. La vilanella [2.35]
19. Recercar VI [3.39]
20. Et in terra pax (Josquin) [3.05]
21. Recercar X [0.43]
22. Qui tolis pechata mondi (sic) [3.23]