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Giacomo GORZANIS (c1525 - c1575): "La barca del mio amore - Napolitane, balli e fantasie"

La Lyra
Dir: Bor Zuljan

rec: Oct 30 - Nov 2,2017, Vila Vipolze (SI)
Arcana - A 450 (© 2018) (56'48")
Liner-notes: E/F/I; lyrics - translations: E/F
Cover & track-list

Alma perché t'affliggi [5]; Basciami con ssa bocca [6]; Chiara più che 'l chiar sol [5]; Da che si part'il sol [5]; Duca vi voglio dir [5]; Fantasia III [7]; Il bel vis'e i begl'occhi [6]; L'altro giorno mi disse [6]; La barca del mio amore [2]; La turturella [5]; Non è amor [6]; Passo e mezzo Antico I - Padoana del detto - Saltarel del detto [4]; Passo e mezzo detto Il Gorzanis - Saltarel del detto [2]; Questi capelli d'or [5]; Recercar I [3]; Recercar II [3]; Saltarello detto Sona Baloni [1]; Scarpello si vedrà [6]; Sta vecchia canaruta [5]

Sources: [1] Intabolatura di liuto, libro primo, 1561; [2] Il secondo libro de intabulatura di liuto, 1562; [3] Il terzo libro de intabolatura di liuto, 1564; [4] Il secondo/terzo libro de intabolatura di liuto, 1562/64; [5] Il primo libro di napoletane, 1570; [6] Il secondo libro delle napoletane, 1571; [7] Opera nova de lauto, libro quarto, 1579

Pino De Vittorio, voice, nacchere; Domen Marincic, viola da gamba; Fabio Accurso, lute, colascione, drum; Bor Zuljan, lute, guitar; Massimiliano Dragoni, hammered dulcimer, percussion

Until fairly recently Giacomo Gorzanis was little more than a minor figure in some anthologies of early music, and his name did not ring a bell with music lovers, except players of lute or guitar music. In fact, his music for the lute was transcribed for modern guitar as early as around 1890. His villanellas appeared in a modern edition in 1963. However, little of his output made it into recordings of early music. That is about to change: in 2017 deutsche harmonia mundi released a disc with pieces from his five books with lute music, printed between 1561 and 1579, performed by Michele Carreca, and the present disc includes again compositions from these sources, as well as vocal items, taken from his two books with villanellas.

Gorzanis was born in the province of Puglia in the southeast of Italy, sometime during the 1520s. He may have been a member of the nobility; it is known that he was blind. In the 1550s he settled in Trieste, the most eastern part of present-day Italy, close to the border with Slovenia. At the time this region was part of the Holy Roman Empire, ruled by the Habsburg emperors in Vienna. Here he worked until his death.

It seems likely that Gorzanis moved in high social circles, as he dedicated his first book of lute pieces to Hans Khisl of Kolten Pruen, the son of a rich merchant who was a citizen of Lubljana and had several times acted as the town's mayor. Gorzanis dedicated his first book of villanellas to Hans Khisl's oldest son. Apparently the composer's reputation as a performer was such that his compositions found a wide dissemination across Europe. Some of his vocal and instrumental pieces are included in the so-called Dallis-manuscript, preserved in Trinity College, Dublin.

As was quite common in the renaissance period, Gorzanis's printed music was the result of his improvisations. Dinko Fabris, in his liner-notes, suggests that, being blind, he must have had some assistence in the preparation of his music for printing, probably his wife or his son Massimiliano. He also points out that in both his lute music and his vocal works he was quite modern. He was the first to organise lute pieces as a kind of suites, consisting of passemezzo, padoana and saltarello. Whether his music was actually intended as dance music, is hard to say. Michele Carreca, in the liniet-notes to his recording, states: "If some of these pieces are definitely suited to dance, others seem intended more to draw attention to the beauty of the diminutions". The present disc includes specimens of several genres, such as dances (saltarello, passamezzo, padoana) and free forms: recercar and fantasia. Most of them are performed in arrangements, which involve other instruments, such as the viola da gamba, the hammered dulcimer and percussion. It is all done very well, but I don't see the need. I definitely prefer them to be played in the way they were intended.

What is really new is the inclusion of vocal items. Only a few of them may have been part of earlier anthologies, but this is the first disc which presents a substantial number of villanellas. The programme attests to the variety of his output in the genre of the villanella. It is described in New Grove as "generic term applied at various times to popular songs that originated in Naples and flourished from about 1537 to about 1650". This explains why the two volumes of villanellas by Gorzanis were published under the title of napolitane. They are about - often unhappy - love, but there are also some satirical pieces, such as Sta vecchia canaruta: "The old wanton is very cunning. Her claptrap has caused my lass no longer to be fond of me". La turturella uses the image of the turtle-dove to describe an unhappy state of mind: "The turtle-dove mourns her lost mate and leaves for the woods, solitary and sad. (...) I am like this, too, because I have lost my comfort and my pure desire that once made my life happy and joyful". What is modern in Gorzanis approach to the genre of the villanella is that it "favoured performance by a solo voice with lute accompaniment, setting in motion the new penchant for accompanied monody of the Florentine type." (Fabris)

It is not easy to say how exactly this kind of music should be performed. Pino De Vittorio is a well-known performer who acts on the verge of art music and traditional music, and whose approach has something in common with that of Marco Beasley. His voice is something one has to get used to, and is certainly less refined than Beasley's. His treatment of many songs is rather free, especially in regard to rhythm. Whether that is historically justified, is impossible to say, but it certainly works well.

This kind of music is not exactly to my taste, but I am sure that there are many who will enjoy this disc. There is much variety, and the performers do a fine job. If you have an ear for this kind of repertoire, you will certainly have a good time listening to this disc.

Johan van Veen (© 2019)

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