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La La Hö Hö Sixteenth Century Viol Music for the Richest Man in the World
David Hatcher, Asako Morikawa, Alison Kinder, Claire Horácek (viols)
rec. Treowen, Monmouthshire, UK, 11-13 February 2020 INVENTA 1005 [67:26]
Perhaps one can see Jacob Fugger (1459-1525) as a sort of Bill Gates of the early sixteenth century. He was a very successful German merchant and mining entrepreneur. He lived in the highly cultured city of Augsburg. After his death, his son Anton continued the family traditions, including a passion for music. It is worth looking up Jacob’s portrait. The great Albrecht Dürer painted it, and some of it appears on the booklet cover. Jacob looks serious but refined. He lived in the time of another music-loving patron, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, who also sat for Dürer.
Why is Fugger important to this music? He had an incredible library, said to have 1500 volumes. One of them was a manuscript with no fewer than eighty-six pieces. David Hatcher, who has written the fascinating booklet essay and who also plays viol on the disc, has set about the painstaking process of transcribing all of the music. The manuscript now in the National Library of Austria is catchily named ‘Vienna Ms.18-810’. All leading composers of the 1520s and 1530s are represented. Several are known to have also been associated with Maximilian’s court. Twenty-seven pieces appear here.
The pieces, all secular, are arrangements of dances and popular songs of the day, for example the heartfelt Ein frölic wesen by Pierre de la Rue. Some pieces go under a slightly different title, like Josquin’s Plus mils regres. Several are only found in this manuscript. Many are by Ludwig Senfl, who had certain Protestant leanings but also wrote some sacred Latin works.
If we were considering Spanish, English or even French repertoire from that period, we would be a little surprised to discover so much music for viol consort. The German composers cultivated it, however, and they often continued with the strict polyphonic tradition, supplying the tenor part with the dominant melody, rather like a plainchant in a motet.
I should now introduce you to another noteworthy character, one of perhaps even more significance. Francesco Linarol (d.1577) was the patriarch of a family of instrument makers in Venice. A small number of his instruments survive, one of them a tenor viol. David Hatcher was able to handle it, and had a copy made. Next came the excitement of seeing how it plays and blends. In effect, the ensemble playing on this disc was founded in Linarol’s name. The booklet shows a photograph of this beautiful viol. The ensemble commissioned an experienced and highly respected viol maker, Richard Jones, to make a set of viols faithful to the original in a Viennese museum. These are played on this recording.
The album’s title comes from Isaac’s La la hö hö. I do not know its background but the rhythm of the piece reminded my six-year-old nephew, whose views I was particularly keen to ascertain, of Santa Claus crying ‘ho ho ho ho’ down a chimney! It is a fun piece. Elsewhere on the disc, I especially enjoyed the witty use of pizzicato in the anonymous Vil glück un haÿl. There is also some very expressive playing as in de la Rue’s Carmen.
Of the other composers, a new name to me is Adam Rener from Liège. He seems mostly to have left sacred music, masses and motets. And the Austrian Paul Hofheimer, who has left us entirely keyboard and secular pieces.
The playing is a sheer delight, aided by the fine instruments, very well balanced, with a pleasingly warm tone which communicates agreeably throughout. The music is suitably well contrasted track by track, although listening right through at once would not be advised.
The recording, close but not airless, was made in the somewhat rambling mansion of Treowen near Monmouth. The booklet essay goes into much useful detail about Fuggers, Linarol, the instruments and their tuning but there was little space otherwise to tell us more about the actual music. It is also adorned with photographs of the performers, instruments and part of Alamire’s Tandernac.
One might feel that this disc is really for a rather niche market. And yet, anyone even with just a modicum of interest in this repertoire and in fine viol playing should acquire a copy.
Contents Heinrich ISAAC (c.1450-1517)
Las Rauschen [1:40]
Brüder Conrat super Fortuna [1:37]
Zart liebster frücht [2:56]
La la hö hö [1:39]
Gueretzsch [4:53] Pierre de la RUE (c.1452-1518)
Ain frölic wesen [1:15]
Tous les regres [2:53]
Iam sauche [1:30]
Carmen [2:11] Adam RENER (c.1485-c.1520)
Achs ainings ain [1:15]
Jetzt hat volbracht [1:58] Ludwig SENFL (c.1486-1543)
Alles regres [2:10]
Dem ewigen got [1:47]
Albrecht mirs schwer und gros laÿd [3:15]
In lieb und freid hab ich mein bscheid [2:05] Petrus ALAMIRE (c.1470-1536)
Tandernac a 4 [2:38] Antoine BRUMEL (c.1460-1513)
Tandernac a 3 [3:10] JOSQUIN DES PRES (c.1450-1521)
Entre iesuis [1:58]
Plus mils regres [3:19] Paul HOFHAIMER (1459-1537)
On frewdt verzer ich [2:05]
Fro bin ich dein [3:25]