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"Susanne un jour"

Stimmwerck; La Villanella Basel

rec: May 2007, Munich-Sendling, Himmelfahrtskirche
Aeolus - AE-10053 (© 2012) (74'27")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics (only Susanne un jour) - translations: E/D
Cover & track-list

Giovanni Battista BOVICELLI (c1550-1597): Ancor che col partireabcd [6]; Girolamo DALLA CASA (?-1601): Ancor che col partiregj [5]; Susana un giurfhj [5]; Andrea GABRIELI (1532/33-1585): Canzona deta Susanne un jour (PC I,6)h [7]; Orlandus LASSUS (1532-1594): Bonjour mon coeur a 4abcd [2]; Célébrons sans cesse a 4bcdefgij [3]; Missa Doulce mémoire a 4 (Kyrie)abcdefghj [4]; Missa Susanne un jour a 5abcdefghj [4]; Didier LUPI II (fl mid-16th C): Susanne un jour a 4aj [1]; Giovanni Pierluigi DA PALESTRINA (1525/26-1594): Io son ferito ahi lasso a 5abcde; Peter PHILIPS (c1560-1628): Bon jour mon Cueur di Orlando in Gi; Francesco ROGNONI TAEGIO (?-c1626): Io son ferito ahi lassofi [8]; Ciprano DE RORE (1515/16-1565): Ancor che col partire a 4abcd; Bartolomeo DE SELMA Y SALAVERDE (fl 1613-1638): Susanna pasegiata basso solegi [9]

Sources: [1] Didier Lupi II, Premier livre de chansons spirituelles, 1548; Orlandus Lassus, [2] Le premier livre de chansons, auquel sont 27 chansons nouvelles, 1564; [3] Thresor de musique ... contenant ... chansons, 1576; [4] Missae variis concentibus ornatae … cum cantico beatae Mariae octo modis variato, 1577/78; [5] Girolamo Dalla Casa, Il vero modo di diminuir, libri I et II, 1584; [6] Giovanni Battista Bovicelli, Regole, passaggi di musica, madrigali et motetti passeggiati, 1594; [7] Andrea Gabrieli, Canzoni alla francese et ricercari ariosi, tabulate per sonar sopra istromenti da tasti ... libro quinto, 1605; [8] Francesco Rognoni Taegio, Selva de vari passaggi, 1620; [9] Bartolomeo de Selma y Salaverde, Canzoni fantasie et correnti da suonar, 1638

[St] Franz Vitzthum, altoa; Klaus Wenkb, Gerhard Hölzlec, tenor; Marcus Schmidl, bassd; with: Jörg Genslein, Christof Hartkopf, tenore
[LVB] Claudia Nauheim, recorderf; Irene Klein, viola da gambag; Simon Linné, lutej; Mechthild Winter, virginali, organh

This disc is devoted to the art of variation and arrangement. In a time in which there was no something like copyright and the whole idea of intellectual property was far beyond the horizon it was the most natural thing in the world to use popular compositions and use them for one's own purposes. More than that, arrangements were often also a token of admiration and appreciation for the original composer.

One way of using a pre-existing piece was by taking it as the starting point of a mass. The renaissance saw the birth of the parody mass: a composer took a popular piece or one of its parts and incorporated the material in the polyphonic texture of the mass. The number of masses based on a chanson or madrigal is proof of that piece's popularity. One of the most famous examples is L'homme armé. Such pieces could also be arranged in various ways as the present disc shows. Its programme includes music from the 16th century and some pieces from the early 17th century. The track-list shows which compositions were especially popular. Arrangements of these pieces frequently turn up in concerts and on disc. Cipriano de Rore's madrigal Ancor che col partire was a big hit, and that also goes for the chanson Susanne un jour by Orlandus Lassus. The subject of this piece, the story of Susanna as told in the apocryphal chapter 13 of the book of Daniel in the Old Testament, exerted a strong attraction to composers, not only in the renaissance but also in the baroque period. Lassus's chanson is not completely original as he used the setting by Didier Lupi II as his model. This piece opens the programme. Lassus then took his own chanson as the cantus firmus for his mass. This is the core of the first half of this disc.

The sections of the mass are alternated with so-called diminutions. Such pieces consisted of various sorts of embellishments added to a pre-existing piece: a popular tune or one voice from a polyphonic piece such as a motet, a madrigal or a chanson. Diminutions often included virtuosic passagework, and as they were mostly scored for a solo instrument they foreshadow the instrumental virtuosity which would become a feature of the stile moderno of the early 17th century. This disc offers pieces from the decades around 1600: Girolamo Dalla Casa and Giovanni Battista Bovicelli both belong to the renaissance period, whereas Bartolomeo de Selma y Salaverde and Francesco Rognoni Taeggio are representatives of the new era. Interesting is the performance of Bovicelli's diminutions on De Rore's Ancor che col partire. The embellished upper part is not played but sung. Obviously this requires great flexibility of the voice.

Vocal pieces could also be arranged for another polyphonic medium: the keyboard. The present programme includes two specimens: Andrea Gabrieli's Canzona deta Susanne un jour and Peter Philips' arrangement of another Lassus chanson, Bonjour mon coeur. Lute intabulations were also very common, but no specimen of that genre has been included here.

The interpretation raises several questions. The Missa Susanne un jour by Lassus is partly performed with instruments supporting the voices. This was a very common practice at the time, and it will certainly have been often practised by Lassus himself. As Kapellmeister at the court in Munich he had more instrumentalists at his disposal than probably any of his colleagues elsewhere. However, the application of this practice is rather inconsistent. It seems more plausible to use instruments in every section of the mass, not only in the Credo and the Sanctus as is the case here. Moreover, was it customary to use recorders to play colla voce? Cornetts and sackbuts were probably most frequently used, and sometimes also a consort of viols. Moreover, Claudia Nauheim adds ornamentation to the upper part. I am not sure whether this was usual practice in liturgical music.

That said, the performances are very good. Stimmwerck is experienced in this kind of repertoire, and they sing Lassus' mass beautifully. The sound is transparent and the voices blend perfectly. The playing of La Villanella Basel is admirable. Both Claudia Nauheim and Irene Klein play the diminutions very well. The liner-notes say that Susanna pasegiata basso sole by De Selma y Salaverde is for viola da gamba. However, the title doesn't suggest a specific instrument, and as the composer was a professional player of the dulcian it seems more likely that he had his own instrument in mind in the first place. That doesn't prevent any gambist from playing it, though.

Considering the quality of the repertoire and the performances this disc can be recommended, even though some aspects raise questions. That in itself is not a bad thing. It is rather odd that the booklet only includes the lyrics of Susanne un jour, whereas those of all the other pieces are omitted.

Johan van Veen (© 2014)

Relevant links:

La Villanella Basel

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