Giacomo Gorzanis: Solo Lute Music

Michele Carreca renaissance lute
deutsche harmonia mundi 88985374332

[dropcap]G[/dropcap]iacomo Gorzanis (c. 1525-1574) was a blind lute player from Puglia, who spent much of his life in Trieste. He is best remembered today for having composed twelve settings of the passamezzo antico and passamezzo moderno, each followed by a saltarello, in all 24 possible keys, although none of these is included in the present CD. Apart from Michele Carreca’s own tasteful setting for solo lute of “Marta gentile”, from Gorzanis’ Il Secondo Libro delle Napolitane a Tre Voci  (Venice, 1571), all the pieces are taken from Gorzanis’ four books of solo lute music published between 1561 and 1579. (Facsimiles of the original tablature may be found on line via the ever-useful According to the CD booklet, 16 of the 25 tracks are world première recordings.

Michele Carreca plays all six fantasias from the Libro Quarto. They consist of imitative polyphony mostly in four parts, with various contrasting ideas. In Fantasia Prima there are four bars with a distinctive “dum diddy” rhythm, soon followed by a couple of bars with quavers working their way from the lowest note G up two octaves and a fourth to c”. It is not always technically possible to sustain some bass notes while there are treble divisions, for example in bar 29, but Carreca does well to disguise this with fluent, forward-moving playing. Surprisingly he omits four perfectly playable notes in bar 5. Did he accidently miss them out when copying out the music? A feature of Fantasia Seconda is the frequent use of five- and six-note chords. Carreca spreads them at varying speeds for the sake of expression, resulting in a freer overall rhythmic interpretation. Rhythmic freedom is less desirable, however, in Fantasia Terza, and I feel Carreca could have taken his time to make it more steady. He omits notes at the beginning of bars 15 and 17. The theme of Fantasia Quinta is coincidently the same as the first eight notes of the well-known hymn, “All creatures of our God and King” (sung to the tune “Lasst uns erfreuen” from the Geistliche Kirchengesang  of 1623). After all four voices have entered imitatively with the theme, there are passages where the treble and alto are echoed by the tenor and bass, where running quavers are shared by the treble and tenor, and towards the end, where block chords are each played twice. There is much variety, nothing outrageous, just a mood of cheerful optimism in the key of F major. Carreca plays with a bright, clear tone, pausing for breath at cadential points, and rolling chords which he thinks require special attention.

Some of the dance movements are thematically related, for example, Pas’e mezo detto l’orsa core per el mondo, is followed by a lively three-time Padoana del ditto and a super-fast Saltarello del detto. I particularly enjoyed Pass’e mezo della bataglia which Carreca plays with a good, lively tempo and scintillating semiquavers at cadences. Gorzanis adds excitement to the echoing bugle calls with notes séparées followed by a sequence of um-chings leading to the final cadence, which Carreca plays with panache. (For anyone looking for the music, the three battle pieces are from Il Terzo Libro, not Libro Quarto  as given in the liner notes.) With a few more lively dances including a nicely paced Saltarello detto il Zorzi, a couple of fine ricercars from Il Terzo Libro, and an intabulation of Baldassarre Donato’s “Occhi lucenti”, this CD gives us an idea why Gorzanis found favour with his patrons in Trieste.

Stewart McCoy

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