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Lucrezia - La figlia del Papa Borgia 1480-1519
Patrizia Bovi (voice, harp)
Medusa (Patrizia Bovi, Crawford Young (viola da mano, lute), Leah Stuttard (harp), Gabriele Miracle (dulcimer, percussion))
rec. July 2012, Auditorium di Pigna/Centro Culturale Voce, Pigna Corse, France DDD
Texts and translations included
BARYTON CDM0025 [56:14]

Pope Alexander VI who ruled the Church from 1492 until 1503 doesn't enjoy a particularly good reputation in history books. According to Wikipedia "[he] is one of the most controversial of the Renaissance popes, partly because he acknowledged fathering several children by his mistresses." He was a member of the Borgia family, and that name "became a byword for libertinism and nepotism, which are traditionally considered as characterizing his pontificate." The present disc sheds light on another member of that family, his daughter Lucrezia who was born in 1480, long before he was elected pope.

The programme is divided into a number of chapters, and their titles show that her life was pretty turbulent. Her marriages were arranged by her father in order to further his political interests. In 1491 a matrimonial arrangement was drawn up between Lucrezia and the Lord of Val D'Ayora in the kingdom of Valencia but it was annulled only two months later in favour of an engagement to Don Gaspare Aversa, count of Procida. When her father became pope, he sought to be allied with powerful princely families and founding dynasties of Italy. As such, he called off Lucrezia's previous engagements and arranged for her to marry Giovanni Sforza, a member of the House of Sforza who was Lord of Pesaro and titled Count of Catignola. But when the Pope didn't need the House of Sforza's support anymore he tried to persuade Giovanni to agree to an annulment of the marriage. Giovanni refused and Alexander simply asserted that his daughter's marriage had not been consummated and was thus invalid. Two more marriages followed and in addition she had several extramarital affairs. All these things have given her a pretty bad name and have caused her to be portrayed as a femme fatale.

The first part of the programme focuses on her years in Rome, the second includes music which she could have heard when she lived in Naples, Pesaro and Ferrara. Obviously this is very much a matter of speculation. The most obvious choice is Bartolomeo Tromboncino. In 1502 Lucrezia married Alfonso d'Este of Ferrara and in 1505 Tromboncino entered her service. He was one of the main composers of frottolas; the frottola was the most popular form of secular vocal music around 1500. Josquin Desprez and Guillaume Dufay were two of the most famous composers of the renaissance; the latter had already died when Lucrezia was born but during the 16th century his music was still performed and he was mentioned in theory books as one of the greatest. Josquin's Scaramella is the best-known piece in the programme.

Most chapters are introduced by an ottava, or an ottava rima, to use the official name. Another name is strambotto; such pieces were written by composers of frottolas and usually comprised one stanza of eight lines, each of which consisted of eleven syllables. Here the performers sing new texts by Valeria Molini, about whom the booklet gives no information. These refer to the various stages and events in Lucrezia's life. The third chapter, "Marriage to Giovanni da Pesaro 1493", opens with an ottava on this text: "Never a child, she turned, an infant bride, from her play early to the nuptial rite: a fresh rose still in bud, obedient to her father who desired her to be wed". All but two of these texts are sung to a melody which was originally written by Benedetto Gareth (c1450-1510), also known as Il Chariteo, for the strambotto Amando e desiando. Gareth was a Catalan poet-improviser who worked for most of his life in Aragonese Naples. For the remaining two texts the performers have turned to Marchetto Cara, alongside Tromboncino the main composer of frottolas. His setting of Aer de capitoli is used for the ottave in the last chapter. In the header I have put the titles of the new texts between brackets.

Such pieces are known as contrafacta; the use of pre-existing music for new texts was common practice in the renaissance. The same goes for Crawford Young's improvisation Rostiboly which is based on the tenor of an existing piece, written by Domenico da Piacenza (c1400-c1476). Obviously the choice of instruments is also left to the performers; vocal pieces could be performed with voices, either a cappella or with instruments, or with one voice and instruments and often also in purely instrumental versions. Here we hear one voice with instruments like harp and viola da mano. The percussion is used in the dances which are inserted between the vocal items. Patrizia Bovardi opted for a way of singing which is inspired by folk music and is not too sophisticated. That seems in line with the character of the vocal pieces, in particular the frottolas.

All in all this is a rather unusual disc in regard to subject and choice of repertoire. Most pieces performed here are little-known and this, together with the fine performances, make this an interesting proposal for lovers of renaissance music.

Johan van Veen

[Rome 1480-1498]
Benedetto GARETH 'Il Chariteo' (c1450-1510)
[Possan le muse, ottava] [0:51]
HAYNE VAN GHIZEGHEM (c1445-1476/97)
Amours amours [1:41]
[1492 Celebration in Rome after the Fall of Granada]
Juan DEL ENCINA (1468-1529/30)
Levante Pasqual [2:23]
[Marriage to Giovanni Pesaro 1493]
Benedetto GARETH 'Il Chariteo'
[Fanciulla mai, ottava] [0:56]
[Annulment of marriage with Giovanni di Pesaro ... rumours]
Guillaume DUFAY (1397-1474)
Departes vous male bouche [3:11]
Bassadanza [2:59]
[Marriage to Alfonso di Bisceglie - Aragona 1498]
Benedetto GARETH 'Il Chariteo'
[Nuovi sponsali, ottava] [0:52]
Non è tempo di tenere [2:11]
Pizochara, ballo [3:25]
[Assassination of Alfonso di Bisceglie 1500]
Heinrich ISAAC (c1450/55-1517)/SERAFINO AQUILANO (1466-1500)
Morte che fai fai [2:28]
Le Serviteur Hault Gueronnè [3:39]
Juan DE URREDE (1451-c1482)
Nunca fue pena mayor [3:09]
Ahime sospiri - Ohimè Signore [1:33]
Ahime sospiri [2:22]
[Duchess of Ferrara 2 February 1582]
Benedetto GARETH 'Il Chariteo'
[Ogni dolcezza, ottava] [1:09]
Crawford YOUNG
Rostiboly, improvisation on a tenor by Domenico da Piacenza [3:06]
Benedetto GARETH 'Il Chariteo'
[Luce da lungi, ottava] [0:54]
Jean JAPART (fl c1476-1481)
Nencioçça mia [1:55]
[...Love story with Pietro Bembo]
Bartolomeo TROMBONCINO (c1470-c1535)
Muchos son che van perdidos [1:49]
Zappay lo campo [1:23]
Queste non son più lagrime [2:01]
[...Rivalry with Isabella ... Games and celebrations at court ... Love affair with Francesco Gonzaga]
Benedetto GARETH 'Il Chariteo'
[Ella mi guarda, ottava] [0:47]
ROSSINO MANTOVANO (fl 1505-1511)
Perché fai donna el gatton [2:24]
Loyset COMPÈRE (c1445-1518)
Scaramella [2:30]
JOSQUIN DESPREZ (c1455-1521)
Scaramella [1:40]
Tientalora [1:00]
[The refuge of devotion]
Marchetto CARA (1465-1525)
[Cavami l'alma, ottava] [0:55]
Virgine bella che del sol vestita [1:56]
Marchetto CARA
[Ora che dal viso, ottava] [1:05]



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