Leonardo Da Vinci: La musique secrète

Doulce Mémoire, Denis Raisin Dadre
78:05 (CD in a larger hard-backed book)
Alpha Classics ALPHA456

This lavish production, released to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, highlights Leonardo’s skills as an improvisatory musician using voice and lira da braccio. It is perhaps frustrating if not entirely surprising that in all his many notes, sketches and marginalia the master did not record any of his own music. Instead, the present recording matches music by the artist’s contemporaries to a selection of his paintings allowing them to comment on one another. There is one instance, in Leonardo’s “Portrait of a Musician”, where the painter depicts a page of written music, although again perhaps frustratingly no-one has been able to identify the music, or even the young subject of the painting. Elsewhere Leonardo depicts musical instruments, including his own beloved lira da braccio, and the instrument features prominently in the programme. Side-by-side with music by Josquin, L’Heritier, Isaac, Obrecht, van Ghizeghem, Tromboncino, Caron and de la Fage, we are given music by their much less celebrated contemporaries all in lovely and imaginative performances by Doulce Mémoire. Touchingly, and appropriately we get nearest to an improvisation by the master for voice and lira da braccio in the music chosen to accompany his most famous painting, the Mona Lisa. Using a formulaic accompaniment from a book of frottole published by Petrucci to perform a sonnet by Petrarch, the group’s excellent soprano Clara Coutouly and Baptiste Romain on the lira da braccio create genuine musical magic, spanning the centuries and evoking the sort of experience Leonardo’s audiences might have enjoyed. This is a lovely CD, and its lavishly illustrated accompanying volume makes this a fascinating and satisfying package – a worthy celebration of the great and versatile Leonardo.

D. James Ross

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