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A Songbook for Isabella
Music from the circle of Isabella d'Este

La Fortuna: (1) Or su corere it 4 anon (a,j, b, m)
(2) Fortuna desperata it 4 Antoine Busnois (g, b, j, m) (3) Facia agnon in fin che po it 4 - anon (a, b, j, m)
Prenez sur moy vostre example: (4) Prenez sur moy it 3 - Johannes Ockeghem (a, p, g, j, m) (5) Helas que para advenire it 3 - Firminius Caron (g, b, m) (6) Or che son di presion it 4 - Bartolomeo Trombcncino (a, b,j, m)
A la cazza: (7) A la pesea it 4 - Iannes Plice (c, h, n, k) (8) [Gagliarda] Peschatore - anon (r, c) (9) A la cazza it 4 - anon (a, r, d, h, j, m)Kyrie Eleison: (10) Kyrie leison it 4 - anon (a, b,j, m) (11) Colomba senza lielle - anon (a, g, b, m)

(12) Pavana regia - anon (q)

Carmine sine verbis I: (13) EI piove it 3 - anon (g, b, m) (14) Si dedem it 3, it 4 Alexander Agricola (g, b,j, m)
Ave Maris Stella: (15) Ave marts stella it 3 - anon (a, g, b,j)
La Mi La Sol: (16) La mi it 4 Heinrich Isaac (g, b, j, m) (I 7) La mi la solla mi gia vol a 4 - anon (a, b, j, m)
Viva iI grand'Hercule: (18) 0 triumphale diamante it 4 G.L. (a, i, 0, f) (19) Tente alora it 4 - anon (e, h, 0, 1)
In Festo Natalis Domini: (20) Verbum cam factus est it 3 - anon (g, b,j) (21) Ne la digna stalla it 2 - anon (a, r, g, b)

(22) Recerchar di Benedictus - anon (q) (23) Benedictus - anon/Isaac (q)

Carmine sine Verbis II: (24) Absque verbis it 3 Heinrich Isaac (b,j, m)
(25) Gratis acceptistis it 4 - Heinrich Isaac (g, b, j, m) (26) La Mora it 3, it 4 - Heinrich Isaac (g, b, j, m)
La Speranza: (27) In te, Domine, speravi - Josquin des Prez (a, p, g, b, j, m)
(28) [Salterelli] Zorzi, Giorgio - anon (p, c, h, n, k) (29) Forte cosa e la speranza it 5 - anon (a, r, g, b, j, m)

Musica Antiqua of London - Philip Thorby, director Clare Wilkinson, mezzo-soprano
Philip Thorby (b) tenor viol (c) alto recorder (d) tenor recorder (e) alto crumhorn (f) bass crumhorn
John Bryan (g) treble viol (h) tenor recorder (i) tenor crumhorn
Alison Crum (j) tenor viol (k) bass recorder (1) bass crumhorn
Roy Marks (m) bass viol (n) tenor recorder (0) tenor crumhorn
Jacob Heringman (p) lute (Andrew Rutherford, USA, 1997) (q) lute (Michael Lowe, Oxfordshire, 1999, after FreD (r) Renaissance Guitar (Brendan Hirst, EI15IJand, 1990)

Signum SIGCD 0039 [75'26"]

This anthology grows on you as it unfolds. The players are skilled instrumentalists, but the feeling is of friends at home, picking up different instruments as the mood takes them. The same music is repeated in several versions, and there are many real gems. At first the singing is cool, Clare Wilkinson's voice almost an additional intrumental line. There is often a disconcerting lack of apparent connection between the delightfully fresh words and the music, often in many verses with little or no word setting by our expectations from later generations of composers. But Clare Wilkinson allows herself to become more animated and involved in a number of the items, and the variations of instrumentation (indicated by the letterings in the listings above) are a help. La mi la solla mi gia vol is a jolly song about rejection worthy of Wolf's Italian Songbook. Ne la digna stalla is a cheerful Nativity celebration, In te, Domine, speravi a bleak acceptance that after all the praying "very little is provided for my pain". The full texts and translations enhance enjoyment enormously.

A generously filled CD, impeccably recorded. The presentation is exemplary and Philip Thorby's notes, with an account of Isabella's musical tastes, comprehensive and interesting for the non-specialist. As you can see above, the information is compendious, though (a very tiny cavill) it would have helped if the "Instrumentarium" had been placed on page 3 opposite the tracklist (nothing would have been lost thereby) so that one did not have to have so many fingers keeping place in different pages. Against that, praise to Jan Hart for the meticulous alignment of the translations. All in all, a very satisfying compilation combining scholarship with sensuous pleasure.


© Peter Grahame Woolf