The Raimondo Manuscript: Libro de Sonate Diverse

Domenico Cerasani lute
Brilliant Classics 95580
The Raimondo lute manuscript (Como, Biblioteca comunale, MS 1.1.20) was unknown to Wolfgang Boetticher when he compiled his RISM volume of manuscripts in tablature (published in 1978). It first became known to the lute world in 1980, in a facsimile published by the Antiquae Musicae Italicae Studiosi, which now has long been out of print. The manuscript was owned by Pietro Paolo Raymondo, who came from a distinguished family in Como, and who was responsible for copying some of the pieces, signing his name, and adding the date July 1st 1601. The manuscript contains a wide range of pieces, the earliest by Francesco da Milano (1497-1543), and later ones appearing in Besard’sThesaurus Harmonicus (1603) and Mertel’s Musicalis Novis (1615). I know of only two previous recordings of music from this source – an LP by Sandro Volta, and a CD by Ugo Nastrucci – both mentioned by Federico Marincola in his LuteBot Quarterly, Autumn 1998.
Of the 69 pieces in the manuscript, Domenico Cerasani chooses 24, beginning with a short anonymous Toccata (41v). He adds a few notes of his own to the opening chord, and includes (correctly) a surprising g (2 on 4) written before the final chord of F major. It is a rather nice miniature, which I don’t think benefits from Cerasani’s slightly jerky interpretation of the rhythm. Why not play it in time, and let the music speak for itself? His playing is otherwise quite expressive, with pleasing contrasts. Where there is polyphony he sustains the different melodic lines clearly, giving the impression that more than one instrument is being played. There is also a slight unevenness of rhythm in his interpretation of the Gagliarda del Cavagliero (85v) which causes it to lose the rhythmic crispness one expects with a galliard. He is not helped by the way the music is written – thick 4-, 5- or even 6-note chords interspersed with fast-moving quavers – but the note value of his interpretation of the chords is not always clear. The Fantasia (46v), attributed on the CD to Lorenzo Tracetti, is the same as Laurencini’s Fantasie 4 in Robert Dowland’s Varietie (1610), albeit with extra passages added here and there, including an elaborate final cadence. The so-called Corrente francese (22v), is in duple time and appears in Lord Herbert of Cherbury’s lute manuscript as a Prelude by Perrichon. There is much variety, from short, lively dances – Brandle, Gagliarda, Corrente, Volta – to longer, more cerebral toccatas and fugues. The Fuga of track 15 is the well-known La Compagna by Francesco da Milano (Ness 34). Cerasani credits the extra divisions in “Vestiva i colli” to his erstwhile teacher, Massimo Lonardi. There is much to enjoy on this CD, including a well-poised performance of an intabulation of Susanne un jour, which covers the whole range of Cerasani’s instrument, from the lowest note up to the tenth fret of the first course. He plays an 8-course lute by Matteo Baldinelli, strong in the treble and quieter in the bass. Judging by occasional squeaks as Cerasani’s fingers slide along the strings, I guess it has synthetic wound strings for the lowest courses.
Stewart McCoy

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