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"Quando cala la notte"

Enea Sorini, voicea; Corina Marti, harpsichord

rec: Jan 2015, Rheinfelden (D), Schloss Beugen
Carpe Diem Records - CD-16308 (© 2016) (65'49")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: E
Cover, track-list & booklet

anon: Fuggi fuggi cor mio (after Philippe Verdelot, c1480/85-1530/32?); O passi sparsi (after Sebastiano Festa, c1490/95-1524); Pavana - Il saltarello de la pavana - La coda; Pavana - Il saltarello de la pavana - La coda; Recerchada; Ripresa; Tu mi tormenti a tortoa; Andrea ANTICO (c1480-after 1538): Animoso mio desiro (after Bartolomeo Tromboncino, 1470-after 1534); Virgine bella che del sol vestita (after Bartolomeo Tromboncino); Marchetto CARA (c1465-1525): Nasce la speme mia da un dolce riso; Oimé il cor, oimé la testaa; Marco Antonio CAVAZZONI (c1490-c1560): Madame vous aves mon cuor; Nicolaus CRACOVIENSIS (fl 1st half 16th C): Alijec Nademna Venus (after Francesco Santa Croce, c1487-1556?: De là de l'aqua); Elias DUPRÉ (fl 1507): La mia vaga tortorellaa; Giacomo FOGLIANO da Modena (1468-1548): Recerchada; Recerchare; Johannes LULINUS Venetus (fl early 16th C): Surge da l'orizonte il biondo Appolloa; Michele PESENTI (c1470-1528): Deh chi me sa dir novellaa; Julio SEGNI da Modena (1498-1561): Ricercare; Bartolomeo TROMBONCINO (1470-after 1534): Ecco che, per amarte, a quel ch'io arivo!a

Under the title of Quando cala la notte (When the night descends) Enea Sorini and Corina Marti present a sequence of pieces which belong to the genre of the frottola. It was by far the most popular genre of secular vocal music in Italy from roughly 1450 to 1530. It is a collective term for texts of various forms and character: a frottola could be, for instance, a canzona, a sonnet or a strambotto. Its origin is the practice of reciting poems to a musical accompaniment which was widespread in the mid-15th century. Poet, singer and performer were usually the same, and the accompaniment was mostly improvised. The practice of improvising ad lyram, as it was called, was even part of the pastime of the aristocracy: in particular Lorenzo de Medici in Florence greatly enjoyed it.

The centre of the frottola was the court in Mantua, though. This was mainly due to the patronage of Isabella d'Este, who had a broad cultural interest and was musically educated which allowed her to sing and to play instruments. She commissioned poets to supply her with verses which she then handed over to composers to be set to music. Especially interesting is the fact that these composers were all native Italians, rather than representatives of the Franco-Flemish school. One of the most famous was Bartolomeo Tromboncino. He grew up in Verona, where his father was a member of the town's municipal wind ensemble. Tromboncino was educated as a sackbut player and probably became a member of the wind ensemble himself. Around 1489 he was in the service of Francesco II Gonzaga, but shortly after 1490 he became composer and lutenist to Isabella d'Este. It is likely that he accompanied Isabella when she sang her frottolas. She certainly will have sung some of his, as Tromboncino was the most important composer of such pieces: 170 are attributed to him. Another important contributor to the genre was his contemporary Marchetto Cara who worked as lutenist at the court of Francesco II Gonzaga. He was also from Verona. He first served Francesco, and then, after Tromboncino's departure in 1505, also Isabella. More than 100 frottola's from his pen are known.

Frottolas could be performed in several ways: by a vocal ensemble or by a solo singer who is accompanied by a chordal instrument, such as a lute or a harpsichord. The latter is the way the frottolas are performed here. The texts are different from those which were used for madrigals, a genre which was exclusively connected with aristocratic circles. The frottola texts are more light-hearted and so is the music. This has consequences for the way they are performed. Enea Sorini has found the perfect approach: his singing is very relaxed and has a light touch, he doesn't include too much dynamic shading and his ornamentation is modest. On top of that his delivery is excellent, which is essential in this repertoire.

It is a bit of a shame that he doesn't sing that many frottolas. A considerable part of the programme consists of keyboard pieces. Most of them are arrangements of frottolas which attests to the popularity of the genre. One of the sources of such pieces is a collection published in 1517 by Andrea Antico under the title Frottole Intabulate da Sonare. This was recorded complete by Glenn Wilson and Fabio Antonio Falcone respectively (review). Corina Marti also selected pieces from a famous collection which was put together by Johannes de Lublin and from various other sources which are regularly used in recordings of early keyboard music. She not only plays frottolas but also original keyboard works, like ricercares - one of the main forms of keyboard music of the renaissance - and some dances. She plays an "early renaissance harpsichord", according to the booklet. This instrument is not specified but it is the right tool for this music, especially as it allows for a clear articulation. That is essential in pieces which are originally composed for voices and based on a text.

These two artists have put together a nice and entertaining programme of vocal and keyboard pieces which receive splendid performances.

Johan van Veen (© 2017)

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