Sixteenth-century viol music for the richest man in the world
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In our own days when the richest men in the world are vying with one another in the realm of space flight, it is nice to recall a time when prestige was measured in the cultivation of the arts. Jacob Fugger, head of the wealthy banking family of Augsburg at the beginning of the 16th century, when he was probably indeed the richest man in the world, was a great sponsor of music, and the manuscript for viols on which the current CD is based was probably compiled for him. I recall a previous CD entitled ‘Music of the Fugger Time’ – I did wonder what this would mean to English-speaking listeners – which celebrated the role of the Fugger family in the cultivation of music, but the present, more tightly focussed CD is a wonderfully evocative tribute to this all-powerful family, financiers to kings and emperors. A roll-call of the composers represented in ms 18810 from the National Library of Austria – Isaac, de la Rue, Josquin, Hofhaimer, Brumel, Senfl and Rener – indicates a very selective approach to music collection, ensuring that music in the Fugger household was of the same superlative standard as every other aspect of their lives. The Linarol Consort, playing four viols by Richard Jones of Powfoot in Dumfries, give us wonderfully idiomatic and vivid performances of this early 16th-century repertoire. And fittingly overseeing it all, Jacob Fugger’s gimlet eye glares out of his portrait by Dürer on the front cover of the CD.
D. James Ross