EXPANDED PROGRAM NOTES FOR SFUMATO
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Poi che volse la mia stella is a frottola by the early 16th century composer Bartolomeo Tromboncino (c. 1470 – 1535), who worked in the service of famous patroness Isabella D'Este. The song is from the publication, Tenori e contrabassi intabulati col sopran in canto figurato per cantar e sonar col lauto Libro primo. Francisci Bossinensis, printed by Petrucci in Venice on March 27, 1509, and is typical of Tromboncino's style. The refrain quotes what was a well-known 15th century pastoral song, 'Che fa la ramacina', "Why tarries my little one, why does she not come?"
We follow 16th century practice by including short instrumental pieces to set the mood for or act as 'connective tissue' bridging the featured vocal music. Recercare vi is from Francesco Spinacino's Intabolatura de lauto libro primo of 1507, the very first published music for the lute. While Spinacino's book gave pride of place to sacred and secular arrangements of polyphonic vocal music for lute, he also included several recercari, or dramatic 'searching' pieces, from which we draw liberally.
Vergine bella is among Tromoboncino's relatively small surviving output of laude, or devotional songs, setting the passionate poetry of Francesco Petrarch (1304 – 1374). Our unique version of this moving lauda is newly arranged for voice and lute from the original four-part setting by Tromboncino, and its gentle but consistent pulse is in contrast to the effective but stylistically earlier and more complex setting by Guillaume DuFay (c.1397 – 1474).
Che debbo far? is another setting of the poetry of Petrarch by Tromboncino. Indications from the character of the music alone would lead one to perform this piece with a faster, more sprightly pulse. But when matched with the heart-wrenching nature of the poetry, the longing restraint of the pulse produces a perfect melancholy effect.
The Recercar by Marco Dall'Aquila (c.1480 – 1538) is a beautiful example of an expressive polyphonic lute piece in the style brisé, or arpeggiated style. This recercar continues the tender melancholy aspect of 'Che debbo far.'
O mia ciecha e dura sorte is a frottola by Marchetto Cara (c. 1470 – 1525). Cara and his wife, Giovanna Moreschi, were an early 16th century model for Mignarda, as a professional duo performing the hits of the day with the winning combination of voice and lute. Pietro Aretino (1492 – 1556) left behind a large corpus of correspondence with literati, and persons of noble rank and position; in a particularly sardonic letter dated 22 November 1537, he describes an old man strutting down the street indignantly singing ‘O mia cieca e dura sorte,’ offering a clue that led to our pulse-driven interpretation of the song.
Recercare xv by Francesco Spinacino is a more cerebral example of the early recercare. The piece is a brooding, sectional rhetorical essay with declamatory passages and a tension that ebbs and flows, presaging the more finely wrought contrapuntal forms prevalent later in the century. We employ it self-consciously as prelude to the following track on our CD.
O passi sparsi by Sebastiano Festa (c. 1490 – 1524) is a unique setting of the poetry of Petrarch. This song is an example of an historical reconstruction by Mignarda, creating a moving solo song by combining Festa's strophic setting for voices with an engaging arrangement for lute by Alberto da Ripa (c.1500 – 1551).
Recercare x from Spinacino's 1507 book is a perfect example of the earlier form; a sectional and motivic piece that wanders through the forest of the darker modes, finally emerging into the sunlight with Donna leggiadr' et bella, in what almost feels like a modern pop standard by Philippe Verdelot (c.1480 – 1530). From Verdelot's Il primo libro de madrigali (Venice, 1533), this open-hearted setting of the poetry of Giovanni Brevio (1480 – 1539) is augmented with additional verses from a contemporary printed source. On the present CD, this and three other madrigals by Verdelot were taken from Intavolatura de li madrigali di Verdelotto a source for solo voice and lute published in 1536.
Quando Amor i begli occhi is a moving setting by Verdelot from Intavolatura de li madrigali di Verdelotto (1536), dipping again into the poetry of Petrarch. Gentle, transparent and moving, the piece effectively captures the depths and peaks of passion in Petrach's poetry.
Reccerchar AR by Antonio Rotta (c. 1495 – 1549) is from his Intabolatura de lauto published in 1546. An odd spelling of the term for 'searching piece,' this is a sparsely textured recercare played mainly in higher positions with melodic echos of the previous track occurring in the final measures.
Another reconstruction by Mignarda, Verdelot's six-part madrigal, Ultimi miei sospiri, was arranged for solo voice and lute based on an instrumental setting by Vincenzo Galilei (c.1520 – 1591), who is mostly known for fathering his more famous son, Galileo. Verdelot’s madrigal is composed with a very dense texture that can have a marvelous effect but, as is often the case, an all-vocal performance results in an obscured text unless handled with the utmost delicacy. Mignarda's arrangement for solo voice allows the text to be communicated with a clear intent, while taking advantage of the movement and decoration Galilei assigns to the lute.
Recercata by Francesco da Milano (1497 – 1543) is yet another historical spelling of the same term for 'searching piece.' This fine example by the most famous Italian lutenist of the 16th century is more thematically and contrapuntally coherent than the earlier work of Spinacino. Demonstrating how a piece of lute music can travel in time and space, this version is from Bavarian manuscript now residing in Paris; the same piece was trimmed down, treated with slightly different accidentals, given a newly composed second part, and published as a lute duet in Intavolatura de leuto de Ioanne Matelart Fiamengo musico (1559) by the Flemish composer, Johannes Matelart (1538 – 1607).
Quanto sia lieto il giorno is Verdelot's sensuous yet sprightly setting of classically-themed pastoral poetry by the famous Niccolò Machiavelli (1469 – 1527). The setting is edited from the 1536 source, Intavolatura de li madrigali di Verdelotto, in which Verdelot's madrigals are arranged for solo voice and lute, but Mignarda have added second verse from Machiavelli's poem with supple vocal ornamentation inspired by the setting for solo lute published by Giovanni Maria da Crema (fl. 1546).
The lutenist, Giovanni Maria da Crema (fl. 1546), is known for having arranged polyphonic instrumental ensemble pieces for solo lute, of which Recercar duodecimo is an example. Da Crema's Intabolatura de Lauto (Venice,1546) also included arrangements of Verdelot's madrigals with highly ornamented passage-work for solo lute.
Verdelot's setting of the anonymous text, Con lagrime et sospir ("With tears and sighs"), is again from the 1536 Intavolatura de li madrigali di Verdelotto for solo voice and lute. The madrigal also exists in a slightly variant setting for four voices in a collection of part-books that was presumably given to the English King Henry VIII as a gift from the city-state of Florence (H. Colin Slim, A Gift of Madrigals and Motets). In the absence of additional verses, our performance repeats the single verse with spontaneous improvised ornamentation.
The short contrapuntal Fantasia by Francesco da Milano is from, Raffaello Cavalcanti’s Lute Book (1590), a later 16th century manuscript source of music by the famous Milanese lutenist. Using the a similar opening motif, the fantasia provides a slightly mysterious-sounding prelude to the stylistically later music that follows in our recorded program.
Perche' son tutto foco and Donna se'l cor di ghiaccio are both by the shadowy Hippolito Tromboncino (fl. 1545 – 1550), who may or may not have been related to the more famous Bartolomeo Tromboncino (c. 1470 – 1535). From the manuscript source Il libro di canto e liuto of Cosimo Bottegari (circa 1565), these dramatic madrigals for solo voice and lute provide an early example of the highly ornamented Italian vocal style, familar in the later work of Giulio Caccini (1551 – 1618). In fact, one of Caccini's earliest songs also appears in the Bottegari manuscript.
Orlando fa' che ti raccordi is an instrumental setting of an anonymous villanella based on a text from Orlando furioso by Ludovico Ariosto (1474 – 1533). This piece is from a late 16th century manuscript that was transcribed by Italian musicologist, Oscar Chilesotti, and published in 1890. Chilesotti's transcriptions were later orchestrated by Ottorino Respighi in his three suites titled Ancient Airs & Dances.
Piango che Amor is Mignarda's arrangement for solo voice and lute of a four-part madrigal by Luca Marenzio (1553 – 1599), arranged from Marenzio's 1588 book of madrigals. The piece ends with a falling tear motif in the final notes of the cantus line, set to the word, pianto (weeping). This is a heretofore unrecognized occurance of the falling tear motif and, given John Dowland's admiration for Marenzio, must be added to the list of possible inspirations for Dowland's famous 'Lachrimae' theme.
Recercar secondo, attributed to Francesco da Milano, is a moody and textural piece, published in Intavolature de lauto di Vincenzo Galileo Fiorentino (1563) some 20 years after Francesco's death. Echoing the 'Lachrimae' theme twice at dramatic moments, this recercar offers a summation of the form with a clarity of theme and contrapuntal intent.
Dissi a l'amata mia lucida stella is justifiably one of Luca Marenzio's more popular madrigals from his Madrigali a quatro voci, Libro primo, 1585. Following the typical 16th-century practice of intabulaton, Mignarda breathes new life into the piece in their own arrangement for solo voice and lute.
Program notes ©2011 Ron Andrico & Donna Stewart