Music for the House of a Gentleman
Ensemble Trictilla (Lucia Sciannimanico (mezzo), Valerio Losito (violin, lyra da braccio), Marta Graziolino (harp), André Henrich (lute), Giulia Nuti (harpsichord, recorder))
rec. 2006, Palazzo Grifoni Budini Gattai, Florence, Italy. DDD

Music was one of the main preoccupations in the highest echelons of society in the 16th century. Learning to play an instrument or to sing was part of the education of any true gentleman. That word is derived from 'gentle' which an early 17th-century Italian dictionary defined as 'noble, gracious, courteous'. "The gentleman who studied and cultivated music was a true dilettante, in that he practised the art of music for his own delight (diletto) and education", the liner-notes to this disc state. Until well into the 18th century members of the aristocracy who were active as composers used the word dilettante to distinguish themselves from those who composed for a living. The social status of the latter was rather low.

The 16th century was the time when music printing became a major business. Several music publishers printed a considerable number of collections with vocal music (chansons, madrigals) or instrumental pieces, mostly dances. Such music was aimed at the upper class to play and sing privately or with family and friends. That also influences the way this repertoire is performed. "The noble dilettante's chosen instruments were the lute, the harpsichord, the lyra da braccio and of course the voice. No self-respecting gentlemen would have accommodated in his own dwelling the vulgar instruments of street music: cornets, trumpets, crumhorns and percussion". The mentioning of the latter is especially interesting as many recordings of 16th-century dance music include percussion which some performers seem to consider indispensable. This disc proves otherwise as the programme includes several dances whose character comes off perfectly in performances with a string or a plucked instrument or various combinations of instruments as used by gentlemen in the renaissance.

The recording dates from 2006 and was originally made for the exhibition "At home in Renaissance Italy" in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It comprises a wide variety of forms as were common in the renaissance. Dance music figures prominently, and among the dances are several which have their origins in folk music. However, here they are presented in a more 'sophisticated' way, in line with performance practice among the higher echelons of society. Dances were sometimes intended for various instruments but were also part of the repertoire of single instruments, not only the lute but also the harp and various keyboard instruments.

The track-list shows that vocal music was still dominant in the 16th century: many instrumental pieces were connected in one way or another to vocal music. At the time most of this was polyphonic, and to be performed by an ensemble of singers. However, it was also possible to perform them with one voice and a chordal instrument, such as the harp or the lute. In that case the singer took the upper voice and the instrument played a kind of 'reduction' of the remaining voices. That is the way we hear several vocal items here, such as one of Jacques Arcadelt's best-known madrigals, Il bianco e dolce cigno.

Some madrigals were so famous that composers took them as a subject for arrangements. Especially popular were extended embellishments of one of the parts of a vocal piece, mostly the upper part. These were known as divisions, diminuzioni, passaggi or diferencias. This genre emerged in the last decades of the 16th century and foreshadows the instrumental virtuosity that was one of the features of the new style of the 17th century. The programme also includes a recercar by Ascanio Mayone, one of the main keyboard and harp players and composers of the time around 1600. This piece already reflects another feature of the seconda prattica which was born in the early 17th century: experiments in the realm of harmony.

This is a most interesting recording which approaches the wide range of repertoire from the Italian renaissance and does so from a specific angle. It gives some idea of the various ways in which vocal and instrumental music could be performed. The interpretation leaves nothing to be desired. The singing and playing by the members of the Ensemble Trictilla is first-class and the programme is put together in such a way that a maximum variety is guaranteed.

The liner-notes are informative, and the booklet includes a specification of the instruments used and a list of the sources from which the music is taken. Unfortunately lyrics of the vocal items are not included.

This is musical entertainment of the highest order and the quality of music and performances makes this disc suitable for repeated listening.

Johan van Veen

Giorgio MAINERIO (1535-1582)
Ballo francese [1:54]
Jacques ARCADELT (1504/05-1568)
Il bianco e dolce cigno [1:48]
Fusi pavana piana [0:59]
Ballo milaenese [0:59]
Arboscello, ballo furlano [1:12]
Ungarescha e saltarello [1:26]
Schiarazula Marazula [1:31]
Marco FACOLI (c1560-1590)
Pasamezo di nome anticho [6:28]
Romanesca di lyra [1:58]
Francesco SPINACINO (?-after 1507)
Recercare [2:41]
Philippe VERDELOT (c1470/80-1522?)
Donna che sete tra le belle, bella [2:18]
Orlandus LASSUS (1532-1594)
Qui sequitur [1:18]
Vincenzo RUFFO (1510-1587)
La gamba in basso e soprano [1:59]
Francesco ROGNONI Taeggio (?-after 1626)
Divisions on Vestiva i colli (Palestrina) [3:44]
Giovanni Maria DA CREMA (fl early 16th C)
Fantasia settima (with second lute part by Johannes Matelart) [1:48]
Orlandus LASSUS
Oculus non vidit [1:17]
Ascanio MAYONE (c1565-1627)
Recercar sopra il canto fermo di Costanzo Festa e per sonar all'arpa [3:34]
Francesco DA MILANO (1497-1543)
Fantasia sexta (with a second lute part by Johannes Matelart) [1:59]
La pastorella si leva per tempo [2:15]
Adieu mon amour [2:14]
Diego ORTIZ (1510-1570)
Divisions on O felici occhi miei (Arcadelt) [2:25]
Francesco DA MILANO
Canone (with a second lute part by Johannes Matelart) [1:30]
Girolamo DALLA CASA (?-1601)
Divisions on Suzanne un jour (Lassus) [3:49]
Johannes Ambrosius DALZA (fl early 16th C)
Pavana alla venetiana [2:36]

Support us financially by purchasing this from