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Vincenzo GALILEI & Giacomo GORZANIS: Lute Music

[I] Vincenzo GALILEI (1520s-1591): "The Well-tempered Lute"
Žak Ozmo, lute
rec: Nov 10 - 11 & Dec 12 - 13, 2014; Jan 14 - 15, 2015, Southampton, Holy Trinity Church, Weston
Hyperion - CDA68017 (© 2016) (63'03")
Liner-notes: E
Cover, track-list & booklet

[Tone I] Passamezzo [antico] I; Romanesca [antica] I; Saltarello I; Passamezzo [moderno] I; Romanesca [moderna] I; [Tone II] Passamezzo [antico] II; Romanesca [antica] II; Saltarello II; Passamezzo [moderno] II; Romanesca [moderna] II; [Tone III] Passamezzo [antico] III; Romanesca [antica] III; Saltarello III; Passamezzo [moderno] III; Romanesca [moderna] III; [Tone IV] Passamezzo [antico] IV; Romanesca [antica] IV; Saltarello IV; Passamezzo [moderno] IV; Romanesca [moderna] IV

[II] Giacomo GORZANIS (1520s - 1574/79): "Solo Lute Music"
Michele Carreca, lute
rec: April 24 - 26, 2015, Bagnacavallo (Ravenna), S. Girolamo
deutsche harmonia mundi - 88985374332 (© 2017) (53'36")
Liner-notes: E/D/I
Cover & track-list

Balo Todesco - La sua gagliarda [5]; Fantasia I [5]; Fantasia II [5]; Fantasia III [5]; Fantasia IV [5]; Fantasia V [5]; Fantasia VI [5]; Marta gentile (ed. M. Carreca) [4]; Occhi lucenti assai piů che le stelle [1]; Pas'e mezo detto l'orsa core per il mondo - Padoana del ditto - Saltarello del ditto [5]; Pas'e mezo sopra gie vo desser d'un bois ah. del Gorzanis [5]; Pas'e mezo sopra una Canzon francese [5]; Pass'e mezo della bataglia - Padoana del ditto - Salterello del ditto [5]; Pass'e mezo ditto La dura partita - Padoana del ditto [1]; Passo e mezzo anticho I - Padovana del detto - Saltarel del detto [2]; Recercar I [3]; Recercar II [3]; Saltarello detto Sona Baloni [1]; Saltarello detto il Zorzi [1]; Saltarello detto porgi aiuto al mio core [5]; Saltarello dito l'Imperial [3]

Sources: [1] Intabolatura di liuto, libro I, 1561; [2] Il secondo libro de intabolatura di liuto, 1563; [3] Il terzo libro de intabolatura di liuto, 1564; [4] Il secondo libro delle Napolitane a tre voci, 1571; [5] Opera nova de lauto, libro IV, 1579

Everyone knows Galileo Galilei, the famous astronomer. Few people know his father Vincenzo, who was a lutenist by profession. Not only that: he was also an important theorist whose views on harmony had an immediate impact on his own music, as we shall see.

Vincenzo's year of birth is not known; it seems likely that he was born in the late 1520s. His main patron was Giovanni de' Bardi, a literary critic, poet and playwright, whose name is connected to the Florentine Camerata. He sponsored Galilei's theoretical studies with Gioseffo Zarlino in Venice. The latter must have made a strong impression on Galilei. Zarlino was considered the main music theorist of his time, thanks to his treatise Le istitutioni harmoniche which was first published in 1558 and reprinted several times. It was followed by two further treatises, printed in 1571 and 1588 respectively. The importance of Zarlino's most famous treatise is that he aims at bringing together speculative theory and practice. In the second part of his book he develops a theory of consonances and tuning. It is this part of Zarlino's treatise which is especially important with regard to Galilei. About 1570-71 he started to write a compendium to Le istitutione harmoniche, but gradually he derived from the views of his teacher which resulted in a conflict with Zarlino.

In 1572 Galilei settled in Florence and became a member of the above-mentioned Camerata. Its members contributed to the development of his views which found their practical expression in his Libro d'intavolature di liuto, printed in 1584. Žak Ozmo, in the liner-notes to the present disc, writes: "This fascinating work is the first substantial musical collection to champion the versatility of a well-tempered tuning system, more precisely described as equal temperament (...). Galilei's Libro demonstrated the ability of the lute to transpose pieces to any of the twelve degrees of an equally tempered scale, while using the two modes that most resemble the more modern notion of minor and major tonality: Dorian and Ionian." This collection of lute pieces was preceded by other editions and several treatises; particularly important is Dialogo della musica antica et della moderna of 1581, which includes Galilei's views on tuning and monody.

The Libro of 1584 is divided into three sections; Ozmo focuses on the first and second. "The Parte prima contains sets of dances - passamezzos, romanescas and saltarellos - on each of the twelve ascending semitones of the equal-tempered octave, starting with the pitch of the lowest, open course." The passamezzo is a dance in duple metre and is based on the ground passamezzo antico. Every passamezzo is paired with a corresponding romanesca antica in triple metre. Each passamezzo-romancesca pair is followed by a saltarello, a dance in triple metre.

Part two of the collection comprises passamezzos and romanescas only. They are again organized in sets on each of the twelve semitones of the equal-tempered octave. In this section the mode used is the Ionian, "which to modern ears is very close to a major key" (Ozmo). There are no saltarellos in this part of the collection; it includes a note indicating that a pair of passamezzo moderno and romancesca moderna can be followed by the corresponding salterello from the first part. Ozmo confined himself to pieces on the first four steps on the scale. Under Tone I we hear passamezzo antico, romanesca antica, saltarello, passamezzo moderno, romanesca moderna. This kind of sequence returns for Tone II to IV.

Three issues need to be mentioned. The first is the question whether this collection was intended for performance. Ozmo refers here to the technical requirements of the pieces it contains: "[The] collection pushes the technical and artistic capabilities of both player and instrument to their limits." The second issue is the lenght of individual pieces. Every piece includes a various number of variations: the Passamezzo antico secondo has four, but the Passamezzo antico sesto has no fewer than thirty. "I have tried to keep the dances of the same kind at similar length, while, in the longer ones, I have chosen fairly uninterrupted sequences of variations as they are presented in the manuscript." Lastly the question which is always raised with regard to dance music: was it intended to be danced to? Ozmo doesn't give a definitive answer; that is probably impossible anyway. But he seems to lean to the view that the musical and rhetorical aspects require a certain freedom with regard to tempo which make these pieces less suitable for accompanying a dancer.

This is probably the first disc entirely devoted to Galilei's lute music, and in particular the collection of 1584. From a historical point of view this recording has to be rated very highly; lutenists will certainly be very interested in the music and also Ozmo's extensive liner-notes. Fortunately one can also simply enjoy the music as it comes; whether this music was intended for performance or not, it is certainly well worth listening to. Žak Ozmo is the ideal guide who plays with much sensitivity and a perfect feeling for the rhythms. He delivers a rhetorical interpretation, well articulated and dynamically differentiated. Considering that only three musical forms are included here it may be advisable not to listen to this disc at a stretch.

In his liner-notes Ozmo mentions "a collection of twenty-four passamezzo - saltarello pairs by Giacomo Gorzanis (c1520–c1579), [which] is much smaller in scope, and much less interesting musically." Gorzanis is the composer to whom Michele Carreca devoted a disc.

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. Gorzanis was a prolific composer; five collections of lute pieces are known, dating from between 1561 and the late 1570s. In addition he published two books with secular vocal pieces. The last tablature book was published posthumously in 1579 which justifies the assumption that he must have died that year or earlier.

Carreca has selected pieces from all collections, except the 24 passamezzos and saltarellos of 1567 mentioned by Žak Ozmo. The programme includes various specimens of fantasia and recercar, two free forms, which contrast to dances, such as passamezzo, saltarello, paduana, ballo and gagliarda. In the latter category several pieces are linked, for instance Pas'e mezo detto l'orsa core per el mondo - Padoana del ditto - Salterello del ditto. Carreca, in his liner-notes, also deals with the issue of the intention of such dances. "If some of these pieces are definitely suited to dance, others seem intended more to draw attention to the beauty of the diminutions". The title of the passamezzo from the cycle I just mentioned seems to refer to a vocal origin. Arrangements of vocal music of various kinds was very common at the time; numerous intabulations of chansons, madrigals or motets were published, often the result of improvisations. The present disc also includes some of such pieces. Occhi lucenti assai piů che le stelle is the title of a madrigal by Baldassare Donati (Donato) (c1529?-1603), a composer from Venice and pupil of Willaert. Marta gentile is Carreca's own intabulation of a villanella from Gorzanis's collection of 1571.

Because of the greater variety of forms this disc is probably better suited to be listened to at a stretch than the Galilei disc. I am not in the position to assess the quality of Gorzanis's oeuvre; Ozmo's remark regarded only the 1567 collection anyway. I certainly have enjoyed both the music and Carreca's performance. he plays with much fervour, but can also be more restrained and delicate.

Lute aficionados should not miss either of these discs.

Johan van Veen (© 2017)

Relevant links:

Michele Carreca
Žak Ozmo

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