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Per voi ardo
Italian madrigals
Carlos Mena (alto)
Manuel Minguillón (vihuela)
Rec. 2019, Sagrados Corazones Chapel of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Madrid
Texts and translations included
IBS CLASSICAL IBS12021 [63:53]

The genre of the lute song is usually associated with the English Renaissance. However, English composers of the 16th century were not the first to write songs for a solo voice and lute accompaniment. In Italy, a collection of such songs was published as early as 1509 by Petrucci in Venice. When in 1601 Giulio Caccini published his collection of songs Le nuove musiche he suggested that songs for a solo voice were something new. That was not more than a commercial ploy, because he knew very well that the tradition of solo singing went as far back as the 15th century. John Griffiths, in his liner-notes to the present disc, writes: "Singing to the lute was an old established practice in Italy, a tradition of improvisatori who invented songs and solo music that was never written down and that is now irretrievably lost".

The collection of 1509 included frottole by composers such as Bartolomeo Tromboncino and Marchetto Cara, which were originally written for four voices and were arranged as songs for solo voice and lute by Francesco Bossinensis. The procedure was that the upper voice was left intact and was to be sung, whereas the alto voice was entirely omitted and the tenor and bass parts were intabulated for lute. One of the main collections of such arrangements came from the press in 1536. It comprised madrigals by Philippe Verdelot, and these were arranged for voice and lute by none other than 'Messer Adriano' - Adrian Willaert, the famous maestro de cappella of St Mark's in Venice. The title of this disc refers to this collection, which ended with Verdelot's madrigal Per voi ardo. A number of these arrangements have been recorded by Il Desiderio (Stradivarius, 1995). The difference with the intabulations of frottole just mentioned, is that Willaert included all three parts beneath the soprano, rather than only the tenor and the bass.

Willaert's edition was of great influence; until the end of the 16th century songs for voice and lute were published in Italy. One could say that the songs by Caccini were the natural successors to these songs. Something of the same kind happened in Spain. The first collection of lute songs appeared in the same year as Willaert's edition. Luis Milán published his vihuela book El Maestro, which included Spanish songs, but also some on Italian texts.

The disc under review here focuses on songs by Spanish composers of later generations, which were included in books with pieces for the vihuela by Enríquez de Valderrabano (1547), Diego Pisador (1552) and Miguel de Fuenllana (1554). In addition we get some songs by Alonso Mudarra. As one can see in the track-list, all pieces are on Italian texts. Most of them are through-composed, but there are also some strophic songs which usually have a refrain, such as Quanto sia lieto il giorno, originally written by Philippe Verdelot. On the other hand, La vita fugge is a sonnet, an original setting by Alonso Mudarra. Unfortunately, the poets are not mentioned in the booklet.

As far as the polyphonic madrigals are concerned, they are performed as they were originally written, but obviously the element of harmony between the voices is largely missing. One voice and an arrangement of the other parts for a plucked instrument has a different effect than a performance by four voices. On the other hand, a performance by a single voice offers the opportunity to give weight to single words and to treat the solo line with more freedom. One can leave it to Carlos Mena to make the most of these songs. He has a very beautiful and agile voice which is ideally suited to this repertoire. It has a wide tessitura which is needed, as some songs include very high notes and others go to the other end of the voice's range. There is no hint of stress on the highest notes, and for some low notes Mena goes into his chest regsister with great ease. He sings with much sensitivity and differentation depending on the text and the character of the song. Manuel Minguillón is his ideal partner at the vihuela, who also plays some beautiful solo pieces.

The genre of the song for voice and lute or vihuela written in the Italian and Spanish Renaissance is little known, and from that perspective, this disc is an important contribution to our knowledge of this period in music history. Musically speaking, it is highly entertaining, thanks to the excellent music and the impressive performances of these two artists. I am sure that anyone who adds this disc to his collection, will return to it regularly.

Johan van Veen

Enrique DE VALDERRÁBANO (fl 1547)
Amor tu sai (Arcadelt) [2:20]
Vita de la mia vita (Verdelot) [2:01]
Soneto XX Benedicto sea el giorno [1:16]
Fantasia XIV contrahecha a una del milanes [2:48]
Alonso MUDARRA (c1510-1580)
La vita fugge [3:49]
O gelosia d'amanti [2:35]
Diego PISADOR (1509/10-after 1557)
Sparci Sparcium [3:31]
Lagrime mesti (Willaert) [3:15]
A quando a quando havea (Willaert) [3:24]
Miguel DE FUENLLANA (fl c1553-1578)
Fantasia VII [1:39]
Il bianco e dolce cigno (Arcadelt) [2:01]
Quanto sia lieto il giorno (Verdelot) [3:26]
Quanto di vegio [1:05]
Fantasia I [1:29]
Fantasia VII [2:05]
Itene a l'ombra [4:32]
Fantasia XIII de contrapunto [1:57]
Soneto II [2:13]
Gloriar mi poss'io donne (Verdelot) [2:18]
Madonna qual certezza (Verdelot) [2:44]
Tiento II [1:32]
O s'io potessi donna (Berchem) [2:41]
O felici occhi miei (Arcadelt) [1:36]
Madonna per voi ardo (Verdelot) [1:57]
O bene mio fa (Willaert) [2:48]
Madonna mia fa (Willaert) [2:00]

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