musica Dei donum

CD reviews

"Soundscape - Leonardo da Vinci"

Capella de la Torre
Dir: Katharina Buml

rec: Jan 29 - 31, 2018, Berlin, Studio RBB
deutsche harmonia mundi - 19075860892 ( 2018) (64'05")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: E/D
Cover & track-list

anon: Basse danse Jouissance [9]; Caminata; Il marches o di Salutioa; La Gamba; La virtu se vol seguireab; O triumphale et diamanteab; Ogni cosa ha il suo locoab [4]; Qual semplice uccellino; Qui belles amours aab [8]; Qui desidra esser feliceab; Se l'ortolana vene a la cit; Marchetto CARA (c1475-1525): Forse che s, forse che noa [3]; Non tempo d'aspettarea [2]; Tante volte s s sab [5]; Franchino GAFFURIO (1451-1522): O sacrum conviviumab; Jean HESDIMOIS (fl 1510): Tutto il mondo fantasiaab; Heinrich ISAAC (c1450-1517): A la battaglia; JOSQUIN DESPREZ (1450/55-1521): Tu solus qui facis mirabiliaab [1]; LEONARDO da Vinci (1452-1519): Amore sola mi fa remirare; Dionisius PLACENTINUS (fl c1500): Egli il tuo bon Iesa; Claudin DE SERMISY (c1490-1562): Jouissance je vous donneraya [7]; Bartolomeo TROMBONCINO (c1470-1535): Gentil Donna [6]

Sources: Ottaviano Petrucci, ed., [1] Motetti de passione de cruce, 1503; [2] Frottole libro primo, 1504; [3] Frottole libro tertio, 1505; [4] Frottole libro sexto, 1505; [5] Frottole libro undecesimo, 1514; [6] Andrea Antico, ed., Frottole intabulate da sonare organi, 1517; [7] Pierre Attaingnant, ed., Trente et sept chansons musicales, 1531; [8] Tilman Susato, ed., Vingt & Six Chansons, 1543; [9] Thoinot Arbeau, Orchsographie, 1589

Ccile Kempenaers, sopranoa; Harry van Berne, tenorb; Annette Hils, recorder, bass curtal; Birgit Bahr, Katharina Buml, shawm; Regina Hahnke, bass curtal; Tural Ismayilov, sackbut; Johannes Vogt, lute; Peter A. Bauer, Mike Turnbull, percussion

This year (2019) the death of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) is commemorated. One could call him an uomo universale, as his areas of interest included "invention, drawing, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography", as we read in Wikipedia. The fact that music was one of the subjects he was interested in, justifies a programme as that which has been recorded by Katharina Buml with her ensemble Capella de la Torre. However, even if he was not involved in music himself, there would be a good reason to perform such a programme, as in his time music was so much a part of everyday life that people of any importance could hardly not have encountered musicians and/or composers at some stage in their life and career.

We have to turn to New Grove to find some information about Leonardo's involvement in music. First of all, his interest concerned music at a theoretical level. His ideas in the field of the philosophy of music were closely connected to his philosophy of painting. He was also interested in acoustics and either invented instruments or improved existing ones. The latter efforts were driven by the wish to facilitate playing techniques, increase the speed of playing and extend the tonal range. Although it is stated in the booklet to the present disc that he was also composing, no pieces from his pen seem to have been preserved. The track-list includes one piece with his name. The liner-notes explain: "Leonardo left behind a handful of mysterious texts involving musical notation, including the rebus Amore sola mi fa remirare (...). Regardless of the great esteem in which it is held and assuming that it is preserved in full, music is here involved in a game."

According to Peter Schmucker, in his liner-notes, "[the] present recording is largely centred around the frottola, a musical genre that emerged in Leonardo's day from Upper Italian courts such as those of the House of Este (...)". Two names are connected to this genre: Bartolomeo Tromboncino and Marchetto Cara. Both were for some time in the service of Isabella d'Este (14741539), wife of Francesco II, an accomplished singer and lute player and a great lover of frottolas. Frottolas were usually scored for four voices, but the performance practice seems to have been very differentiated. Isabella d'Este may have sung them, accompanying herself on the lute. Several editions of adaptations for voice and lute are known, but there is also evidence of purely vocal performance. However, many frottolas were published with only the upper voice being texted, whereas the lower voices cannot always be fitted to it. This suggests that the voices were not treated strictly equally, and justifies a performance by a solo voice and instruments. The frottolas included here are performed in different ways. We also hear an intabulation, published (and possibly arranged) by Andrea Antico.

Josquin Desprez and Heinrich Isaac are also included here, as they are two of the main composers of the time. Around 1500 both worked for some time in Italy. Franchino Gaffurio was another contemporary of Leonardo, and both a theorist and a composer. Most of his oeuvre consists of sacred music, such as the motet O sacrum convivium. Why some pieces by French composers have been included is a bit of a mystery, and is not explained in the liner-notes. Maybe it was inspired by the fact that Leonardo da Vinci died in Amboise, part of the kingdom of France. After all, the French items close the programme. That said, they all date from well after Leonardo's death.

Katharina Buml is always keen to perform music as part of commemorations of historical events. Often she includes pieces which are little known, not seldom by composers who are also little more than footnotes in music history. Unfortunately, she is not always entirely consistent in her choice of music, as is the case here with the French items. However, most of the pieces are from Leonardo's lifetime and by composers who were from Italy or for some time lived and worked there. With Ccile Kempenaers and Harry van Berne, she has attracted two excellent singers who are seasoned interpreters of early music, and whose voices blend perfectly with the instruments. The latter deliver fine performances. This disc is not only a survey of the music in Leonardo's time, but also documents the variety in performance practice.

Johan van Veen ( 2019)

Relevant links:

Capella de la Torre

CD Reviews