Johannes de Lublin tablature (1540)

Dark green flowers

Keyboard Music from Renaissance Poland
Corina Marti Renaissance harpsichord
Brilliant Classics 95556

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his tablature is a significant source of music for the keyboard from the first half of the 16th century. According to the accompanying booklet, it contains 230 pieces of music, two theoretical treatises, and over 250 musical examples “with a didactic purpose”. The music, the majority of which remains anonymous, is mainly in the form of dances, preludes and intabulations of vocal works by European composers such as Josquin, Ribera, Senfl, Sermisy, Brumel and Walter, as featured on this disc, plus several others.

The succession of 39 short pieces in 74 minutes does not make for a riveting listen. The dances and preludes range from the charming to the uninteresting, and the intabulations of the vocal works can seem fussy or stilted compared with the originals, and no more than opportunities for the arranger and/or the performer simply to show off without adding anything.

Nevertheless, Corina Marti makes the best case that she can for every piece, and has evidently taken care over her interpretation of each one. It is a pleasure to listen to her modern “Renaissance” harpsichord after an anonymous Neapolitan model circa 1520, the beautiful sound of which compounds the excellence of her execution of these slight works. And it is also important that recordings such as these are made: beside their value as archival documents, they let us hear what keyboard repertory was being played at a certain time, in a certain place. They also alert us to the existence of these instrumental versions of certain vocal works, and the extent to which they were circulated – a matter of great interest when considering the reception of their composers’ works.

Richard Turbet

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