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Andrea ANTICO (c.1475-c.1540)
Frottole Intabulate per sonare organi Libro Primo 1517
Maria Luisa Baldassari playing Historic Instruments: Spinet, Clavichord, Clavisimbalum, Harpsichord & Organ
rec. 2015, Church of SS.Corpo di Christo, Valvasone, and Studio G. Monari, Italy
TACTUS TC480101 [57.44]

An apt release, as this disc celebrates the anniversary of this significant publication 600 years ago, but how far Andrea Antico can be considered a composer is difficult to ascertain; the pieces in this collection are arrangements or, what are known as ‘entablatures’ of well-known songs, ‘frottolas’, in fact, which were very popular in the first half of the 16th Century especially in Italy. Antico therefore made idiomatic settings for keyboard as others did for lute.

Rather annoyingly, Tactus only offer us the song titles and not the name of the composer of the original version. Many frottola are anonymous of course, but the first piece is the oft-recorded Che farela che dirala originally by Marco Cara (d.1525); the other significant composer of frottola was Bartolomeo Tromboncino (d.1535) who worked for Isabella d’Este in Mantua, the centre of the Frottola’s fame as it were. He is represented for example by his Per dolor mi bagno el viso the reasonably well known Che non crede che al mondo and by Virgine bella che del sol vestita which has a beautiful text by Petrarch (set also by Dufay c.1450).

What makes this CD particularly attractive is the fact that these twenty-nine pieces are played on five different instruments rather randomly placed across the listening time. In addition these keyboards are described in suitable detail in the booklet, - date and maker, and it’s fascinating to compare their sound spectrums. We even have a rare excursion for a Clavisimbalum, this one a reconstruction of an instrument found in a treatise of 1450. Interestingly this is operated by hammers like the clavichord and, of course, the piano. The lovely toned clavichord (sadly only used twice ) is a reconstruction of one found in the Urbino Chapel and dated c.1475.

I found myself greatly admiring the way that Maria Baltassari has a consistent approach with each and an even toned quality and balance across the two recording dates. Especially interesting is the organ in the Church of Saint Corpo di Christo in the historic town of Valvasone in Northern Italy. It is one of the few from “the early 16th Century that have been restored to the original register disposition” according to the notes.

But what are entabulations?

As the harpsichord and especially the clavichord and spinet cannot sustain chords, this means that bars or passages must be extended and enriched by ornamentation, passing notes and scalic writing and as some songs of the period often tend towards an unpretentious accompaniment with simple four-part chords in the original this needs to be done with imagination and with maintaining interest. On the bass viol Diego Ortiz (d.1570) was famous in this area and another Spaniard Antonio Cabezon (d.1566) for the harpsichord.

Andrea Antico is much less well-known. It seems that he had intended another book of entabulations, hence the title ‘Libro Primo’ but things never worked out favourably for his enterprise as the very useful booklet notes tell us.

What is not clear is if these entabulations were used to accompany the voice or, anyway, the vocal line, and all parts found in the originals are employed by Antico on two staves. Maria Luisa Baldassari in her essay concludes that because Antico’s publication says only “per sonare organi” and not “per cantar e sonar” as is the case elsewhere she seems to be drawing the conclusion that Antico’s collection was just meant to be for a keyboard, hence the fact that it failed to hit its target and was not followed up.

The accompanying notes have a few ‘typos’ and odd words but all in all this is an intriguing disc, well put together and recorded and one, which explores a repertoire which is little known.
Gary Higginson
Che farala che dirala [1.50]
Occhi miei lassi
Non più morte al mio morire
Per dolor mi bagno el viso
Chi non crede che al mondo el sol nutrisca
Gentil donna se in voi
Crudel fuggi se sai
Non resta in questa valle
Son io quel ch’era quel
dì [0.57]
Fiamma amorosa e bella
Dolce ire dolci sdegni
Amor quando fioriva mia speme
Hor ch’el ciel et la terra
Che debbio fare
Non resta in questa valle
Chi non crede che al mondo el sol nutrisca
La non vol esser più
mia [1.48]
Si è debile el filo
Per mio ben te vederei
O che aiuto o che conforto
O che dirala mo [
Stavasi Amor dormendo sotto un faggio
Odi cielo el mio lament
Me lasserà tu mo [1.33]
Frena donna i toi bei lumi [1.05]
Virgine bella che del sol vestita [2.46]
Cantai mentre nel core [1.18]
Animoso mio desire [1.20]
Hor che’l ciel et la terra [2.48]



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