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"Capriccio pastorale"

Capella de la Torre
Dir: Katharina Bäuml

rec: Dec 2022, Wolfenbüttel, Landesmusikakademie
deutsche harmonia mundi - 19658844222 (© 2023) (64'21")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: E/D
Cover, track-list & booklet

Giovanni ANIMUCCIA (c1514-1571): Ditene' o pastori [5]; È nato il grand'Iddio [5]; Hoggi la vita nasce [5]; Levate su pastori [4]; anon: Angelus ad virginem; Danza dei pastori; Hor non nascescias; Quando nascette ninno; Tu scendi dalle stelle; Tutti debiam cantare [1]; Venite adoriamo; Maurizio CAZZATI (1616-1678): Giga Angelella; Johannes CICONIA (c1370-1412): Gloria; Giovanni Paolo CIMA (c1570-1630): Hodie Christus natus est [7]; Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643): Capriccio Pastorale; Heinrich ISAAC (c1450-1517): Missa de Sancta Maria a nativitate Domini usque ad purificationem (Introitus; Alleluia; Sequentia) [2]; Francesco LANDINI (c1325-1397): Angelica biltà; Giovanni Serafino RAZZI (1531-1611): O Maria diana stella [3]; Francesco SOTO DE LANGA (1534-1619): Nell'apparir del sempiterno sole [6]

Sources: [1] Ottavio Petrucci, ed., Laude libro primo, 1508; [2] Heinrich Isaac, Choralis Constantinus, III, 1555; [3] Giovanni Serafino Razzi, ed., Libro primo delle laudi spirituali, 1563; [4] Giovanni Animuccia, Il terzo libro delle laude spirituali, 1577; [5] Francisco Soto de Langa, ed., Il secondo libro delle laude spirituali a tre et a quattro voci, 1583; [6] Giovanni Giovenale Ancina, ed., Tempio armonico della Beatissima Vergine N.S., 1599; [7] Giovanni Paolo Cima, Libro primo delli motetti a quattro voci, 1599

Margaret Hunter, Erika Tandiono, soprano; Florian Cramer, tenor; Hildegard Wippermann, recorder, shawm; Katharina Bäuml, shawm; Yosuke Kurihara, sackbut; Regina Hahnke, dulcian; Frank Pschichholz, Johannes Vogt, theorbo; Martina Fiedler, organ; Mike Turnbull, percussion

In the course of history many pieces of a 'pastoral' nature have been written, either explicitly called that way or more hidden. Often such music is connected to Arcadia, the imaginary world of nymphs, shepherds and shepherdesses, rooted in the Antiquity, and the ideal of the higher echelons of society in the 17th and 18th centuries. The fact that shepherds also play a major role in the narrative of Jesus's birth in the gospel of St Luke explains why pastoral music has always been closely connected to Christmastide. We find pastoral music in two of the major works performed at this time of the year, Johann Sebastian Bach's Christmas Oratorio and George Frideric Handel's Messiah. Sometimes it is not that easy to decide whether a pastoral piece of music is secular or sacred. However, we should not forget that in pre-romantic times there was no watershed between the two.

The programme that Katharina Bäuml put together and has recorded with her ensemble Capella de la Torre includes, as one can see in the track-list, many pieces that are not called 'pastorale'. In fact, many pieces don't even sound like a pastorale. "With this recording we immerse ourselves in the soundscapes of Italy in the years around 1500 and contrast very different musical styles: Popular laude and songlike traditional music from the early modern period immediately sets our feet tapping. In addition, polyphonic music can be heard and, in a world premiere recording, one of the inspired settings of the Proper of the Mass Mass by Heinrich Isaac, who spent much of his life in Italy and was influenced by the music there. With this conscious contrast, we would like to look back onto the musical world of Renaissance Italy and at the same time pay tribute to the present day." Thus Katharina Bäuml in the booklet. One may conclude that the title is mainly a selling issue rather than a real description of the programme. Moreover, if music around 1500 is pretended to be performed, why do we get pieces by Landini and Ciconia, who are from the 14th century - which is generally reckoned among the Middle Ages - and, on the other hand, pieces by Frescobaldi and Cima - both on the brink of the baroque era - and even Maurizio Cazzati (17th century)?

The programma as such is attractive: the selected pieces are of unmistakable quality, and several items appear on disc for the first time. The Capella de la Torre is an excellent ensemble, and Katharina Bäuml always has very fine singers at her disposal. From that angle there is little to criticise. However, I have much doubt about the way many pieces are performed. That goes especially for the laude. These songs are basically rather simple and straightforward: this was music to be performed by the common people - those who did not understand Italian. Laude were sung, for instance, during processions. It is hardly conceivable that they may have been performed with instruments like shawm, sackbut and dulcian; dulcimer or hardy-gurdy - instruments closer to popular culture - are more logical options. The sophisticated ornamentation and diminution practice applied here seems to me also out of place in such repertoire. Moreover, this disc is another serious case of percussionitis. Percussion is used far too often; it is a misunderstanding that music of a 'popular' character always needs percussion.

It is regrettable that an ensemble of such unmistakable qualities does not take seriously what we know about historical performance practices. A disc like this is entertaining, and if you don't need more than that, it will give you much pleasure. However, I assume that most readers of this site are interested in performances according to the standards of historical performance practice. They should look elsewhere.

On a technical note: the booklet is sloppy. The lyrics of the last item in the programme are omitted. The source of the piece by Cazzati, born in 1616, is given as dating from 1607. According to the track-list Frescobaldi, Cima, Landini and Ciconia were all born in 1583 and died in 1643...

Johan van Veen (© 2023)

Relevant links:

Capella de la Torre

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