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Io amai sempre Venise 1540
Sylvestro GANASSI (1492-1557)
1er Recarcar [1.05] 4ae Recercar [1.37] 2ae Recercar [0.44] 3ae Recercar [1.55]
Jacques ARCADELT (1514-1557)
Quand ’io pens’al martire (transcr. Scotto [3.49] and Da Ripa [2.55])
Giacomo FOGLIANO (1468-1548)
Io vorrei Dio d’amore [1.49] (transcr. Ganassi [1.58])
Girolamo CAVAZZONI (c.1525-1577)
Christus Redemptor omnium
[1.51] Canzon sopra fait d’argens [3.00]
Nicolas GOMBERT (1495-1560)
Je prens congiť
[5.22] Tous les regretz [4.23] Mille regretz [2.57] Mort et fortune [2.22] Je suys trop jeunette [3.29]
Alberto DA RIPA
Fantasia-No 1

Julio SEGNI (1498-1561)
Canova (Francesco) DA MILANO (1497-1543)
Adrian WILLAERT (1490-1562)
Vecchie latrose [2.43] O magnum mysterium [5.00] Lasso chi I amor [3.31] Io amai sempre [2.49] Monmary ma diffamee [2.20]
Pierre Boragno (recorder); Marianne Muller (viola da gamba); Massimo Moscardo (lute); Francois Saint-Yves (organ)
rec. L’eglise de Longchamois, 12-16 May 2008
Experience Classicsonline

I was reminded, on acquainting myself with this CD, of a remark I heard concerning Mozart: In his time he was known firstly as an improviser, secondly as a pianist and only thirdly as a composer. The same applies to most renaissance composers not least those listed here. Certainly it applies to Sylvestro Ganassi who came from a vast and musical Venetian family.
If I thought of Ganassi at all I associated him with solo viol music as represented here. However, apparently, he was also a wind instrument specialist. What makes Ganassi significant is that he prepared at great expense three treatises on improvisation setting out how to do it, plus a further 175 transcriptions unpublished and in manuscript. This was an art which took young musicians many years of training and which you might think is now lost to us.
Jazz musicians improvise all the time - classical musicians rarely. It’s good to see, by the by, that Trinity Guildhall - one of the examination bodies for graded music exams - has inserted improvisation as an option along with sight-reading and scales. Anyway, with Ganassi’s words and examples these four musicians have set about reconstructing these twenty-three pieces by the leading composers in Italy c.1540.
The singers at that time had the best music both sacred and secular. Instrumentalists with their instruments quickly developed and improved, clearly wanting a share in the feast and some quality music to get their fingers around. Yet their role was to imitate the suppleness and subtlety of the human voice as Pierre Boragno the recorder player tells us in his fascinating booklet notes. He takes his inspiration from Baldassare Castiglione’s immortal ‘The Book of the Courtier’: “I am not satisfied with the courtier if he is not a musician, and if in addition to the ability to read a score, he cannot play several instruments”.
The main technique of improvisation was through making divisions or one should call them ‘diminutions’. The latter is really a better word in that the minim, for example, as it passes say upwards to a major 6th can be filled out with passing notes, perhaps two triplets or more likely in quavers followed by four semi-quavers to make the gap appear to be diminished or divided into smaller sections. The virtuoso would be able to take this to extremes but still keep the melody to the forefront. The pieces chosen here are often based on popular tunes of the day like Willaert’s oft recorded ‘Vecchi letrose’ or even on liturgical chants like Cavazzoni’s ‘Christe Redemptor’.
Not all of the pieces are subject to improvisation. Some are transcriptions from, for example, Ganassi’s own tablature version of Fogliano’s ‘Io vorrei’. It’s interesting to make compare two versions of Arcadelt’s ‘Quand io penso’, one highly complex by Girolamo Scotto played on recorder and organ and the other by Albert de Ripa retaining more of the elements of dance rhythms played on the lute.
If you listen to the entire CD in one sitting, something I would rarely recommend you do, you will find a pleasing track-by-track variety as far as instrumentation is concerned. Recorder and organ flow into solo lute, then solo organ, which certainly keeps the attention. It also allows each performer a chance to shine, culminating in all four playing in what is consequently a warm and luxuriant final track – Gombert’s ‘Je prends congie’.
The booklet and CD are attached in the now quite usual cardboard casing. The former has photos of the performers and, very usefully the names of the instrument makers and dates of completion. The recording is intimate and one feels as if one is sitting on a casement in a private chamber in some cool Venetian home with the lapping waves below the open window.
Gary Higginson


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