Laude, Ballate, Saltarelli & Villanelle

“Tradizione scritta e tradizione orale”
Aquila Altera Ensemble
59:18
Tactus TC 300004

It is hard to pin down what case this CD is trying to make. The repertoire seems consist of works from written manuscript sources and, if the players are applying a huge degree of improvisation, this is not really apparent. In the case of the very familiar anonymous 15th-century Saltarello which appears as track 2 on the CD – it was used most notably as dance music in Zeffirelli’s film of Romeo and Juliet – it is hard to see what element of the oral culture has been applied to the printed source. The melody is repeated several times with different instrumental textures, but surely this is simply standard modern performance practice for this repertoire?

In some of the other pieces it is possible that there is a greater degree of improvisation, but not enough to establish the CD’s credentials as a discussion document on the subject. The performances are lively and generally engaging, but a rather thin and hissy recorded sound spoils the ambience and I was surprised to note that the recording was only two years old. Some of the of the more intensely-toned tracks such as those for soprano and recorders actually distort rather badly. Amongst the redeeming features is some terrific zampogna playing from Marco Cignitti and some very energetic dance numbers, but perhaps this programme needs to be streamlined and then brought into a studio for a higher-quality recording.

D. James Ross