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Cifras Imaginarias
Ariel Abramovich and Jacob Heringman (vilhuelas)
rec. 2-4 September 2014 at the Holy Trinity Church, Weston, Hertfordshire
ARCANA A428 [53.21]

The Cifras refers to sixteenth century lute tablature and the ‘imaginarias’ is the speculative way in which Ariel Abramovich and Jacob Heringman have put together a programme of pieces for vilhuela duet that were never conceived of for such a rare combination.

They have based their work, initially at least, on a publication of 1547 entitled Silva de Sirenas, with music by or arranged by Enriques de Valderrábano (d.1557 i.e. 450 years ago). This complete book, published in the royal city of Valladolid was recorded by Armoniosi Concerti in 2005 (HM 987059) and it is noticeable that of the twenty-six pieces six are songs but only two are described as for two vilhuelas. One is a ‘Contrapunto’ on a bass line and the other an arrangement of a Morales motet.

On this new CD the two, Abramovich and Herringman have take sixteen contrasted pieces just as Valderrábano did, and made a recital of gently civilised, domestic listening of great sensitivity and elegance.

The disc is bookended as it were, by mostly well-known Josquin motets with the almost as famous Dulces exuviae at the centre of the programme. In a way these come off least well, as it is difficult to delineate the complex 4 or 5 voice counterpoint when there are just two instruments of either the same pitch (in unison) or even when a bass vilhuela is used as in the opening track Josquin’s Illiberata Dei Virgo nutrix. There are pieces called Ricercar including one by Willaert ingeniously arranged following Valderrabano’s model. Cabezon’s Pavana Italiano is a keyboard piece but it works well for a bass vilhuela and an alto. There are secular songs of the first half of the sixteenth century, some of them. unsurprisingly, Spanish. The beautiful Dizen a mi que los amores here is given as by Vasquez but in the ‘Palace Songbook’ it is credited to Badajoz. Also represented is ‘il divino’ Francesco da Milano with two of his Fantasias played here on a solo vilhuela to add a little contrast.

The recording, made in a quiet medieval church not too far from London, known for its music and its recordings, is close and suitably intimate and its possible to imagine yourself in some delicious renaissance drawing room surrounded by tapestries and young, beautiful people - hope you don’t mind the sentimentality. If you have a copy of The Book of the Courtier by Baldassare Castiglione in your hand, then all the better. More’s the pity we don’t get our expected hour’s worth of entertainment.

As they say in restaurants nowadays ... enjoy.

Gary Higginson

Josquin des PRES (1445-1521) Illibata Dei Virgo nutrix [7.36]
Adrian WILLAERT (c.1490-1563) Ricercar 7[2.19]
Thomas CREQUILLON (c.1505-1557) arr. Palero (d.1597) Mor me a prive [2.45]
Guilio Segni da Modena (1498-1561) Ricercar [2.13]
Antonio de CABEZON (c.1500-1566) Un gay bergier [3.04]
Philippe VERDOLOT (c.1480-1532?) Italia mia [3.35]
CABEZON Pavan Italiana [ 3.22]
JOSQUIN Dulces exuviae [3.14]
Franceso Canova da MILANO (1497-1543) Fantasia [1.39]
Francisco PALERO Passeavase el rey moro [1.01]
Claudin de SERMISY (c.1490-1562) arr. Cabezon Dont vient cela [3.02]
VERDELOT Ultimi miei sospiri [2.36]
MILANO Fantasia [1.56]
ANON from Uppsala Y con que la lavaré [2.15]
VASQUEZ? Dizen a mi que los amores he [2.29]
JOSQUIN Pater Noster [4.56]
JOSQUIN Ave Maria [3.22]



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