Journal for the study and practice of early music
directed by Arnaldo Morelli
LIM Editrice [2020]. 242 pp, €30
ISSN 1120-5741;

The 2020 RECERCARE contains seven studies, four in English and three in Italian, all the fruit of investigative perseverance, on specific works, prints, sources, situations or occasions. The relevance of uncovered historical details intrinsic to the creation of the music itself makes each article such a rewarding read. The full documentation, often provided in appendices, has more than a supportive role: aside from the specific cases discussed, it may greatly serve other researchers. Recercare is therefore an exponential boon to musical research.

Elena Abramov-van Rijk  asksTo whom did Francesco Landini address his madrigal Deh, dimmi tu’ [‘Say, tell me you … Who do you think you are!?’] While she describes the unusual musical and poetic structure of this ballata, which we have from various sources, it is its popularity and confrontational, accusatory tone that begs for a motive. The anonymous text could well be by Landini himself (Florence, 1325-1397), and the invective directed at a contemporary he knew or who was widely known, who accumulated valuable, portable riches in ‘easy’ ways. The author finds two potential candidates, both acclaimed court entertainers, whom she refers to (unfortunately, I think) as ‘buffoons’. In fact, both probably merited their riches, gained not-so-easily at all. The ballata itself does not refer to a performer, but every word seems applicable, and the careers of both are impressive: Dolcibene de’ Tori, crowned regem ystrionum in 1355 by the Roman Emperor Charles IV and invited to perform in many other courts, was an actor and ioculator (juggler), a poet (his poems ranging from the sacred to his problems with arthritis and impotence, sometimes with scurrilous vocabulary), a composer of canzonette, a singer, an organist and lutenist, and the protagonist of nine of Franco Sacchetti’s 300 anecdotal stories. Bindo di Cione, of Siena, the other, also served Charles IV and in other courts. It is the interpretation of Landini’s famous madrigal (of ca. 1355) that suggests so vividly how these talented entertainers thrived. The complete musical transcription follows.

Patrizio Barbieri ’s ‘Music printing and selling in Rome: new findings on Palestrina, Kerle and Guidotti, 1554–1574’ discusses four newly found disparate documents, presented as four pieces of an incomplete ‘mosaic’, and lastly, the inventory of a Roman bookseller and of a musician from Cambrai which included instruments, printed or handwritten vocal works, an iron music stand used while playing the harpsichords, and an erasable slate with staves for drafting music on. The description and purpose of the editions documented, and the contracts to publish and market them, show who covered the initial expenses, and whether any assistance was offered to authors or others. The publications discussed in detail are Palestrina’s Missarum liber primus (1554) and Kerle’s hymni totius anni et Magnificat (1558-60). The musical inventory of a general Roman bookseller, Antonio Maria Guidotti, includes a great number of almost exclusively Venetian prints of vocal music, mostly madrigals, plus treatises: B. Rossetti’s 1529 Libellus De Rudimentis Musices, G. M. Lanfranco’s 1533 Scintille di musica, and G. Zarlino’s 1558-2 Le Istitutioni harmoniche. The original documents in the Appendix may be useful to others for reflections and comparisons.

Franco Pavans ‘La musica per chitarrone di Giacomo Antonio Pfender. Nuove acquisizioni’ identifies Pfender, detto il Tedeschino, as the composer of some pieces for archlute in a manuscript in the Archivio Estense in Modena (and in a facsimile)1 previously attributed to an older composer, Alessandro Piccinini (1566-1638).

Pfender is known for having collected and published two states of Kapsberger’s Libro primo d’intavolatura di chitarrone in 1604 in Venice. They were close friends in their student days in Augsburg, and based on Kapsberger’s dates (1580-1651) they were in their early 20s in 1604. Pfender’s name reappears on designs for the frontispiece of another chitarrone collection, found in the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de san Fernando in Madrid, where he is named as one of the composers. What the two collections share is a monogram resembling a stick figure with outstretched arms, turned-out feet, and a dot for the ‘head’. It actually consists of four superimposed letters, only two of which were previously noticed: an A and a swirl from its point to the middle of its right side form a P, thus suggesting Alessandro Piccinini. There are also short lines under the A’s two ‘feet’, a wide line balanced on its point, and a central dot above that line.

Pavan brilliantly deciphered the other two letters this monogram. The left side of A and the dot form a dotted capital I preceding AP, and the wide top line uses the right side of A to make a T. İAPT stands for Giacomo (Iacomo or Ioannes) Antonio Pfender, and T for Tedesco (German).

Many more useful considerations accompany this discovery: relations between Roman musical circles and Modena, the handwriting and probable date of the tablature, and a list of its 28 pieces: of which 7, not known from other sources, are attributed to ‘HK’ (Kapsberger), 9 to ‘AP’(?), 5 to ‘İAPT’ and several unattributed. Pavan modestly considers not quite resolved whether those identified as by ‘AP’ are attributable to Piccinini or to Pfender, but after keeping readers in legitimate doubt he adds that the abbreviations HK and AP appear to be in a different hand and ink! The facsimile of the Modena manuscript names only Kapsberger, Piccinini, and G. Viviani, and its editor, Francesca Torelli, was therefore forced to remark that the styles of HK and the older AP were surprisingly similar, so perhaps they were quoting each other! It is too bad that SPES (Archivum Musicum) no longer exists, because continuing this research and revising that introduction would be quite useful.

The Appendix gives Pfender’s letter of dedication of Kapsberger’s Libro primo d’intavolatura di chitarrone. He respectfully addressed Kapsberger as his fratello osservandissimo, and signed fratello amorevolissimo, ‘very loving brother’. It is a curious dedication, since Kapsberger had apparently not requested or given permission for publication. Pfender clears his conscience by saying that he published them in order to make Kapsberger a gift of what he stole, since up to then the pieces were so universally desired that they had become donnicciuole [derogatory term for little old women], whereas now he can peacefully recognize them and accept them back!

1 G. Kapsberger – A. Piccinini – G. Vivianai, Intavolatura di chitarrone. Mss. Modena, ed. facs., introduzione di Francesca Torelli, Firenze, SPES, 1999.

In March 2019 Maddalena Bonechi’s edition of G. B. da Gagliano’s Varie musiche, libro primo, 1623 was reviewed here. Her edition includes as much biographical information on Marco da Gagliano’s less famous brother Giovanni Battista (1594-1651) as there was to discuss. It also gave analyses of the works and their texts. Her present article, ‘Parole, immagini e musica nelle pratiche devozionali della compagnia di San Benedetto Bianco a Firenze – alcuni possibili contributi di da Gagliano’ focuses on the texts, imagery and music as essential to the devotional practices of the Florentine religious confraternity to which Giovanni Battista (and possibly Marco) belonged, and relates how paintings, poetry and music were fused in their spiritual activities. Whether or not the religious compositions in Gagliano’s publication were designed for the San Benedetto Bianco congregation, at least one was performed there: Ecco ch’io verso il sangue, presumably for a theatrical enactment of the passion and death of Jesus, along with the laments of Mary, traditionally for Good Friday. Depictions of the Passion and themes exalting God in comparison with one’s own nothingness and of penitence, enhanced the ritual flagellation practices of the members, who strived to gain insight from such first-hand experience. The beauty of the music and art may indeed have attenuated the rough physical sensory input incurred to stimulate and attain this understanding.

Lucas G. Harris – Robert L. Kendrick gave a curious title,Of nuns fictitious and real: revisiting Philomela angelica (1688)’ to their fortuitous discovery and comparative analysis. A Benedictine nun, Chiara Margarita Cozzolani (1602 – ca.1677), had her 12 solo motets, Scherzi di sacra melodia, printed in score with a separate vocal part book in 1648 by Alessandro Vincenti. Only the vocal parts of this Venetian print survive. Forty years later Daniel Speer published a collection of Italian sacred works, his Philomela angelica, anagrammatically tagged “Res Plena Dei” [Daniel Speer], and attributed to ‘a Roman nun’. Speer’s print contains 24 motets, of which 6, with their continuo lines, are by Cozzolani, 3 by Cazzati, 1 duet attributed to the Ursuline nun Leonarda, and 14 not yet identifiable. What is fortunate is that in his search for Italian sacred pieces that would appeal to Lutherans in southwest Germany, Speer did have the continuo line.

By comparison of sources or by conjecture, Speer simplified the vocal writing, heavy ornamentation being out of fashion, deleted some Italian tempo or ‘mood’ indications, added string parts or sections, and slightly adapted the continuo figures to more Germanic usage. Harris and Kendrick are attempting to reconstruct Cozzolani’s originals, if they can distinguish her harmony and rhetoric from Speer’s arrangements. They have more to go by in the Cazzati and Leonarda pieces, which survive with their continuo parts.

Valerio Morucci  examines part of the private correspondence of Christine of Sweden relating to her musical patronage and employment of singers, in ‘L’orbita musicale di Cristina di Svezia e la circolazione di cantanti nella seconda metà del Seicento’. Administrative documents, such as registers and accounts, have generally gone missing, but communications with singers and with other patrons, courts, cappellas, theaters, and cities (Rome, Venice, Mantua, Modena), await researchers who follow her lead. The degree of cooperation between other courts and hers, her granting of freedom to modify agreements in order for singers to accept additional work, and to establish goodwill between competing patrons, is surprising and admirable. Even this first exploration (the Appendix presents citations from 16 documents) regarding a small number of female singers and castratos will be of interest. They include: Nicola and Antonia Coresi, Barbara Riccioni, Giuseppe Maria Donati detto il Baviera, Giuseppe Fede, Alessandro Bifolchi, Giovanni Paolo Bonelli; other castratos such as Alessandro Cecconi, Giuseppe Bianchi, Antonio Rivani, and Domenico Cecchi detto il Cortona. Some were retained with salaries while many remained absolutely independent, such as Giovanni Francesco Grossi ‘detto Siface’ and Giuseppe Maria Segni ‘detto il Finalino’.

‘Writing a tenor’s voice: Cesare Grandi and the Siena production of Il Farnaspe (1750)’ by Colleen Reardon is a vividly engaging story. The details, gleaned from 119 letters to the inexperienced sponsoring impresario, Francesco Sansedoni, regard the ultimate success of a single opera, beset by numerous potential crises as originally planned, but methodically high-jacked by the ingenious, competent, hard-working, third tenor – and not only to further the careers of his second soprano wife and himself. Cesare Grandi offered and sufficiently motivated his unsolicited advice, eventually accepted by Sansedoni, reversing or manipulating almost every artistic and practical decision – major and minor changes affecting the music itself, the casting, the staging, the order of arias and their keys, the costumes, to suit the musical taste of the patron, and the local politics, or for practical reasons like not having the orchestral parts in the right keys after an aria was shifted from its original place in the libretto or even to be sung by a different singer. Famous as Siena was and is for its two summer Palios, tied to religious holidays, Grandi even obtained a change of its July date!

The recently discovered cache of letters containing Grandi’s psychologically astute suggestions to the younger Sansedoni would probably be bewildering to decipher and interpret without the help of Reardon’s orderly, detailed account. I don’t really have a pressing reason for rereading all 40 pages of this wonderful study (plus 15 pages with 29 appended letters), but it does bear more than one reading for the pure pleasure of pondering what a staggering pastiche an opera in 1750 was: the compromises, the pressures, deadlines met, singers cast, the copying, transposing, rewriting or replacing of arias by unnamed composers – thanks to the initiatives of the third tenor…

Barbara Sachs


Ockeghem: Masses 2

the sound and the fury
fra bernardo fb2122007

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The label Fra Bernardo specializes in some wonderful vocal music from the Franco-Flemish school, sung by ensembles with self-consciously eccentric names, on discs that are encased in packaging usually fronted by illustrations of half-naked men and only slightly less naked women, in expressive (contrived, contorted, whimsical, postmodern, amusing, idiotic – according to taste) postures, ostensibly conducting music by the likes of Ockeghem and Gombert.

The Sound and the Fury (TSATF) are four fellows – David Erler, John Potter, Colin Mason and Richard Wistreich, respectively CT T B B – and this recording, released earlier this year, was made in 2010. Their previous recording of masses by Ockeghem was released in 2013. Strangely they are in competition with another of Fra Bernardo’s ensembles with a whacky moniker, Beauty Farm, who have recorded their own selection of Ockeghem’s masses over three discs, including the two under review here (Fra Bernardo FB1909373, surprisingly the only other currently listed version of the striking Missa Ecce ancilla Domini though a fine version two to a part by The Clerks’ Group on Proudsound PROU CD 133 has been deleted). Given the unarguably stratospheric quality of Ockeghem’s masses, the question of recommending the current disc comes down to the quality of the performance and of the recording. TSATF have a warmer vocal sound than Beauty Farm in their recordings of these two masses, less strident and more considered in their interpretations. The recording venue, Mauerbach Charterhouse Church, in Austria, has a noticeable but not distracting resonance, and TSATF adopt tempi that renders every note clearly audible. This pays off in, for instance, the Credo of Missa My my where the steady tempo is able comfortably to accommodate the syncopations that occur in the latter half of the movement, without any sense of haste and also without any detriment to the clarity of the notes.

The quality of the music in both masses is of the highest order, as one would expect of Ockeghem. Missa My my is based on Ockeghem’s own chanson Presque transi. This can be heard on Cut Circle’s double album of Ockeghem’s complete songs (Musique en Wallonie MEW1995) which I reviewed favourably for Early Music Review on 15 October 2020, referring to this song expressing “downright depression” – a compliment in the context! Missa Ecce ancilla Domini is based on a segment of the antiphon Missus est angelus Gabriel. Sung as well as this, these masses can of course be listened to as superior background music, but it is also most rewarding to engage closely with the music: it is not essential to have profound musicological or mathematical knowledge to appreciate that it has been created by a remarkable intelligence, an experience which is in itself rewarding, but by an intelligence that is capable of creating beauty as well as satisfying musical structures. The subtle change of harmonic gear in the Agnus of Missa My my from the final “peccata mundi” to “Dona nobis pacem” illustrates this beauty perfectly, while the striking phrase used to open the movements lacking an intonation illustrates both beauty and structural eloquence. There can of course be more than one ideal interpretation of music as fine as this. TSATF provides one such interpretation, a superb performance to complement superb music.

Richard Turbet


Nürnberger Lautenschläger

 Virtuoso Lute Music from Nuremberg
Magnus Andersson lute
Klanglogo KL2537

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This interesting CD is an anthology of renaissance lute music from 16th-century Germany. It begins with music by Adolf Blindhamer (c.1450-c.1531), who was lutenist to the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1459 – 1519). It is possible that Blindhamer is one of the lutenists depicted in the well-known set of woodcuts known as “The Triumphs of Maximilian”. Impressive is Magnus Andersson’s performance of Blindhamer’s jolly Nach-Dancz to Ach Betler, which bounces along with a steady foot-tapping beat, and is not held back by the exceedingly fast flurries of notes which appear from time to time.

There is much interesting information about the composers, the sources of their music, and their connection with Nuremberg, to be found in John Robinson’s liner notes. Blindhamer was awarded citizenship of Nuremberg. One of his pupils may have been Hans Gerle (c.1500-1554), whose books of lute music were published in Nuremberg. Andersson plays four pieces from them, including a particularly attractive setting of T’Andernaken, which he sustains well with effective contrasts of tone.

Nuremberg was the home of Hans Newsidler (c.1508/9-63), who busied himself producing six books of lute music and at least 18 children. Andersson plays three of Newsidler’s intabulations: Tartara by Heinrich Isaac similar in style to T’andernaken, a sober Sancta Trinitas by Antoine de Févin, and a bright Cum sancto spiritu by Josquin des Prez. All three pieces are from Newsidler’s Der Ander Theil des Lautenbuchs (1536), which contains harder, more extensive pieces than those in his first book which was aimed at beginners. Ornate figuration is a feature of the intabulations in Der Ander Theil, but Andersson does not let the apparently mindless divisions obscure the musical integrity of the original.

There follows a Passamezzo and Saltarello pair by one of Hans Newsidler’s lute-playing sons, Conrad Newsidler (1541-1603). The divisions, which have interesting chromatic inflections, float over a static bass, which eventually moves to create some pleasing harmonic clashes. The Passamezzo and Saltarello should be contrasting movements, so I would have preferred to hear the Saltarello played a little faster. In contrast are two short sacred pieces set by Conrad Newsidler, which plod along as do so many Lutheran hymns.

Conrad’s older brother, Melchior Newsidler (1531-c.1595), was an exceptionally skilled lutenist. His Recercar Primo is a particularly fine piece of counterpoint, slow-moving, with unexpected changes of direction, rather like Bakfark on a good day. The CD comes to a peaceful end with Melchior Newsidler’s intabulation of Bewahr mich Herr, over seven minutes long.

The organist and composer Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612) was born in Nuremberg. Andersson plays two canzonas by Hassler which appear in a lute book owned by one Michael Eysertts (c.1580-after 1600), who lived in Nuremberg. It is not clear who made the intabulations, so Eysertts’ contribution may have been no more than owning a book.

Andersson uses three lutes built by Lars Jönsson, which are strung in gut with strings from Aquila and Kürschner. There is a tendency for treble notes to be louder and brighter than those lower down, which is probably more to do with a sound engineer’s switch than the luthier or string-makers. Unfortunately, there are a fair few squeaks and other extraneous noises coming from the strings. That, together with an echoey acoustic makes me wonder if the microphone was placed a bit too close to the lute for the recording.

Stewart McCoy


Elizabethan Organ Music

Gustav Leonhardt at the Schnitger organ, Zwolle, Holland
Paradizo PA0019

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For goodness’ sake do not do what I initially did, and dismissively assume that this is another re-hash of Leonhardt’s greatest hits. It is a unique recording, it is an historically significant recording, it is a superb recording, and anyone with an interest in early keyboard music will be delighted that this recording has been resurrected and made generally accessible. As Skip Sempé explains in the booklet, it was originally made for a niche American recording company in the spring of 1962, in a pressing of only a few hundred copies, available only in the USA. Now anyone and everyone can buy it, and the quality of the music and of the performances makes this a cause for rejoicing.

Sempé states that Leonhardt subsequently re-recorded only three of these eleven pieces: two for harpsichord and one for organ. The two harpsichord works are Farnaby’s Fantasia, and Gibbons’ Fantasia MB XX/6, both currently on Philips 4381532. The third re-recording that I have traced is Byrd’s Clarifica me pater III (on the CD it retains the superceded title that was current back in 1962) which Leonhardt plays on the claviorgan (Alpha 073); either Sempé has taken this performance to be on an actual organ, or I have missed a commercial recording of one of these pieces, played on an organ by Leonhardt. Either way, this is a release additionally to be treasured for these unique renditions by Leonhardt of eight fine Elizabethan pieces.

The organ which Leonhardt uses is in San-Michaelskerk, Zwolle, Netherlands, built by Arp and Frans Caspar Schnitger, 1721. Some Elizabethan music ostensibly composed for the virginals or harpsichord can sound strident at one extreme or reedy, even weedy, at the other when played on early organs. The Zwolle instrument sounds beautiful, though it does of course date from over a century after the repertory on this disc was composed. The choice of music is excellent, intermingling folk material with the rigours of plainsong fantasias, and free fantasias (and a prelude) with the discipline of a ground. The fantasias by Byrd and Philips are particularly well chosen, not only because they are both masterful compositions, but also because Philips, a pupil of Byrd, uses the same theme as his teacher. Their respective working out of the material makes for an enthralling comparison.

These compositions from a golden age are performed superbly. Leonhardt had a particular respect for Byrd, and there is the added frisson in hearing works of the first great composer for the keyboard being played by arguably the greatest modern performer on early keyboard instruments: it would be hard to imagine finer performances of either piece. The same can be said of the other nine pieces. Whether you own one, some, most, all, or none of these tracks, this is a recording that simply recommends itself: it is a major discographical event.

Richard Turbet


Enigma Fortuna

Zacara da Teramo : Complete Works
La Fonte Musica, Michele Pasotti
237:00 (4 CDs in a card box)
Alpha Classics Alpha 640

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Zacara of Teramo, AKA Antonio di Berardo di Andrea, is a kenspeckle figure who has only recently coalesced out of a number of shadowy figures of the period as a result of scholarly research into the early Italian Renaissance. (The ‘new’ Zacara now incorporates all of the first three entries under Z in J and E Roche’s excellent 1981 ‘Dictionary of Early Music’!) Active in the Brescia region, Zacara (‘Tiny’) probably acquired his nickname due to his restricted growth, while further deformities meant he had only ten digits altogether on his hands and feet, a fact unshrinkingly demonstrated in a surviving portrait. Now that a larger body of music by this one composer has been identified, he has emerged as an extremely important link between the ars subtilior of the 13th century and the music of the early Renaissance. This comprehensive 4-CD account of his complete sacred and secular oeuvre, including many premiere recordings, is a revelation, both sacred and secular works receiving very fine performances indeed on convincing blends of voices and instruments. It is perhaps easier to identify a specific individual style once a body of work has been confidently ascribed to one composer, but it is hard to see why it wasn’t clear all along that this was the work of a single distinctive and highly talented musical mind. There is also satisfaction for us nowadays in the discovery that a man coping with considerable physical challenges could be so successful in his chosen career and lead such a long and fruitful life in the 14th and 15th centuries. The sacred music (recorded on the first two CDs) in particular is among the finest I know from the period, and these superb idiomatic accounts by La Fonte Musica go a long way to re-establishing Zacara’s seminal role in the development of sacred Italian music. This is not to diminish the attractiveness of the two CDs of Zacara’s secular music, which open with his splendid Cacciando per gustar with its vivid evocation of a busy marketplace.

D. James Ross


A 14th-century Salmagundi

Blue Heron
BHCD 1011

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How lovely to see the enterprising Bostonian vocal ensemble Blue Heron back in the recording studio, albeit for this rather brief CD of music earlier in period than their previous impressive discography – particularly memorable was a ground-breaking series of CDs of music from the Peterhouse Partbooks. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Blue Heron prove superbly in tune with this 14th-century music, which I notice they have approached through recordings of the secular music of Johannes Ockeghem. The voices are occasionally joined by instruments for music by Machaut, Cruce, Vitry, Landini, Jacob Senleches and Jacopo da Bologna. Incidentally, this CD has nothing to do with psalms, the title coming from Rabelais’s Pantagruel and denoting a hodgepodge, and its contents consisting of secular songs! The performances are as I have suggested entirely enjoyable, although I noticed some unfortunate mic popping on a couple of tracks. It is interesting to hear the voices of Blue Heron sounding so natural one-to-a-part and with instruments, including a fine idiomatic contribution on bray harp by the group’s director, Scott Metcalfe. 

D. James Ross


Banchieri | Giulio Cesare Croce: Festino del Giovedi Grasso (1608)

Dramatodía, Alberto Allegrezza
Tactus TC 550008

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This performance of extracts from sequences of music and texts for Carnival time by Banchieri and Croce is presented with the irony and humour essential for this celebration of the reversal of the normal order of things. Like the comedic tightrope walker whose technique must be flawless, the singers of Dramatodía adapt their singing style to a range of parody productions, but at the same time demonstrate that they can sing beautifully too. If I found this element of the CD slightly outweighed by caricature and narration, and felt occasionally that we needed a visual element to bring the programme fully to life, the more seemly performances were entertaining and enjoyable. This is one of the many musical elements in early Baroque Italy, which eventually aggregated into the first operas, and it is intriguing to hear this fine music put into something of a dramatic context. The highlight is undoubtedly Banchieri’s Contrapunto bestiale alla mente!

D. James Ross


Mouton: Missa Faulte d’argent & Motets

The Brabant Ensenble, conducted by Stephen Rice
Hyperion CDA68385

Proclaiming Jean Mouton as one of the finest Franco-Flemish composers in the musical era between Josquin and Palestrina – which he is – does not make him outstanding. It merely renders him equal with a substantial number of similarly fine composers from that era who have enriched the canon of sacred vocal music with their works. Thanks to advances in scholarship and in performance practices, we can now also appreciate the intense distinctiveness of each of these composers, and that same singularity in each of their compositions. This second recording of Mouton’s music by The Brabant Ensemble (following CDA67933; acclaim also for The Tallis Scholars with another Mass and motets on CDGIM 047) introduces yet more hitherto unmined riches from his oeuvre with only one brief item having been commercially recorded previously. These wonderful tracks simply roll out one after another, individually varied while combining to create a disc that is both enjoyable and at the same time rewarding, spiritually and aesthetically. Characteristics of Mouton’s personal style include judicious use of reduced scoring, often employing pairs of voices successively; passages showing the influence of faburden; and the dramatic use of dissonance, not just at cadences. All these are in the context of the finest melody and harmony imparting a sense of spaciousness and yet an uncanny knack to give the impression that more voices are singing than is actually the case: there was more than one point at which I needed to confirm that a particular work was indeed in four parts throughout and not what had begun to sound like five (at least!).

The seven motets that form the first half of this programme all exhibit the edifying and excellently wrought features mentioned above. Subsequently they all appear in the Mass, to such an extent that it emerges as one of the finest from this remarkable generation of supremely gifted – and presumably well-taught – composers. Settings of the Agnus from Josquin, culminating in those for five and (especially) four voices by Byrd composed during the early to mid 1590s, can rise to sublime levels, not only here in Mouton’s Mass, but also in so many of these Masses by so many of these composers. Meanwhile today we are blest with choirs who understand this music, not just reproducing the notes accurately, but doing so with comprehension and empathy, both for the meaning of the music and for the manner in which that music, and the knowledge of that music, can best be dispensed. The entire performance of the Missa Faulte d’argent, which forms the second half of this programme, epitomizes all that is currently best in the performing and recording of Renaissance choral music. Every note is clear. Every melodic line is audible and can be followed in each part without difficulty by the listener. Every harmonic interaction, be it in the weaving and occasional clashing of melodic lines or in homophonic passages, is perfectly weighted. Tempi and volumes are calibrated to respond sensitively to the text and to the sound made by the music itself, so that there is never bland perfection nor emotional exaggeration, and the music and its text can be expressed as rhetoric or narrative, to inform, edify and delight the listener. Mouton has done humanity an enormous favour by composing this Mass. The Brabant Ensemble has done Mouton an enormous favour by selecting this Mass, and by recording it so eloquently. And the great thing is: there is so much more of this quality of music, by composers of this quality, still waiting to be rediscovered, and so much that has already been rediscovered that is waiting to be performed and recorded. And this is besides all the works we know already by (randomly adding to names already dropped) the likes of Fevin, Phinot, Gombert, Manchicourt, Crecquillon, Clemens and a heavenly host of others. In conclusion, I should like to make a plea to The Brabant Ensemble to consider making a disc like this one, consisting of the music of Lheritier. His few commercially recorded sacred pieces are spread over several discs; these motets are superb; he was respected by Palestrina … Meanwhile we can be grateful for this second recording by The Brabant Ensemble of motets and a mass by Mouton – he has proved more than worthy of their (exceptional) further attention.

Richard Turbet

Sheet music

Nathaniel Giles: English Sacred Music

Early English Church Music [volume] 63
ISBN 978 0 85249 965 8 | ISMN 979 0 2202 2643 4 (Hardback)
xxx, 130pp. £70
Stainer & Bell

This second volume dedicated to the few surviving works of Nathaniel Giles (1558?–1634) contains service music. While presenting an edition of the First Service is straightforward, the Second Service can only be reconstructed from the surviving sources to within a certain degree of completeness and the editor Joseph Sargent has had to put his creative hat on for passages where the solo parts are not available, and the Short Service is very fragmentary indeed but both Sargent and the series editor, David Skinner, recommend their contrapuntal possibilities to would-be reconstructionists. After a detailed biography of the composer, Sargent surveys the sources and lays out his editorial approach. Then come detailed descriptions of the sources and a meticulous editorial commentary on the three services. Then to the music itself, laid out on pages larger than A4 size that can accommodate the up to ten voices (two five-part choirs – cantoris and decani, according to Anglican tradition) and the organ part(s). I had to do some brain juggling when systems were compressed and a voice from the lower group appeared in the middle of the combined groups, but generally the approach works. The added parts are printed in smaller notation. The paper is slightly shiny – I did not find that a problem but I have heard others complain about using such paper for music because it can sometimes catch light awkwardly and become difficult to read. I hope more than anything else that this marvellous tome (at another bargain price of only £70!) will encourage performances of the music – it very much deserves to be heard!

Brian Clark


Marc’Antonio Ingegneri: Volume Two: Missa Voce mea a5

Choir of Girton College, Cambridge; Historic Brass of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama led by Jeremy West, directed by Gareth Wilson
Toccata Classica TOCC 0630

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My review of volume 1 (TOCC 0556) was posted on 12 April 2020. Those who enjoyed the recording will be pleased to know that Gareth Wilson adheres to much the same format in this second helping of Ingegneri. This time the Historic Brass does not embrace the Guildhall School of Music and Drama beside the Royal Welsh, and he includes the motet on which Ingegneri’s mass is based. The composer seems to have assumed that he was paying tribute to his teacher Cipriano de Rore, to whom this motet had become attributed even as early as the sixteenth century, but seemingly it is the work of the less distinguished but worthy Paolo Animuccia, whose brother Giovanni has a higher profile. Paolo’s motet Voce mea is nowhere near as fine a work as Palestrina’s Laudate pueri and it is surprising that the latter is not included on volume one as a prelude to Ingegneri’s mass which is based upon it. Although the ways in which Ingegneri uses Animuccia’s motet are audible and interesting, the inferior material renders this mass (which is in only five parts) less gripping than his Missa Laudate pueri (which is in eight parts) from volume 1. That said, there is a sumptuously beautiful passage built on suspensions which emphasize the profundity of the emotional appeal “miserere nobis” in the Gloria. The majority of the intervening motets are set to texts familiar from the works of significant contemporary composers, and it is interesting to compare Ingegneri’s creative responses to theirs.

Like its predecessor, this recording comes with a detailed booklet containing two impressive and readable essays. Carlos Rodriguez Otero, who sings tenor on this disc, tells us about “Ingegneri in focus: sacred music and religious life in Cremona”, while Gareth Wilson’s article “Ingegneri against the odds” is an enthralling account of how the challenges and obstacles thrown up by the pandemic were overcome in the making of this recording. For this reason alone it is worth supporting the disc.

Perhaps because of the circumstances under which the music was recorded, the Girton Choir sounds different –but not worse – on this album, with more of an edge to the tone, especially in the upper parts. This is by no means detrimental to Ingegneri’s music. As before Historic Brass have an equal role, playing some motets by themselves, or taking over sections of certain pieces, such as the second Agnus in the mass, or simply playing some parts while members of the Choir sing the others. There are also some gung-ho full passages such as the amens concluding the Gloria and Credo. Listeners will either like or dislike this approach, and will relish the variety of sounds or be annoyed by the switches of timbre. Or they will simply take it as it comes.

Richard Turbet