Many collections of early French vocal music on this label deserve attention. One is a collection of 19 \"Airs de Cour,\" bawdy, satirical, serious and witty Parisian songs of the 17th century, beautifully sung by countertenor Rene Jacob with a chamber ensemble on Harmonia Mundi 901079. Also labeled \"airs de cour\" though quite different in style are a dozen works from the late 14th century, preserved in the Chantilly Codex and performed by the Ensemble Organum on Harmonia Mundi 901252. The music, exemplifying the elaborate polyphony of the time, treats subjects that include love, philosophical/moral observations and a splendid lament for the death of the great composder/poet Guillaume de Machaut. In a collection titled \"Amours de Ronsard\" (Harmonia Mundi 901147), the poetry and music of the French Renaissance are joined at a very high level. The disc contains 18 poems by the leading French poet of the era in mellifluous settings by composer Anthoine de Bertrand beautifully performed by the Ensemble Clement Janequin. French texts but no translations are supplied with all these discs.
The pieces on this disc are written for two or three female voices. And Luigi Rossi had specific singers in mind. 'Le Canterine Romane' was a trio of singers, consisting of a mother and her two daughters. The mother, Adreana Basile, sang with two sisters at the Mantuan court early in the 17th century, where Monteverdi got to know her. She had two daughters: Leonora (b.1611) and Caterina (b.1620), who also became singers. After a stay in Naples from 1624 to 1633 they settled in Rome where they often performed and were part of the circle around Cardinal Barberini. All three not only sang, but also accompanied themselves and each other on instruments, like lirone, viola da gamba and harp. Leonarda was considered the most brilliant of the three. A whole collection of poems was written in her honour. And in 1639 the English poet John Milton heard them and wrote three epigrams in honour of Leonora as well. In that same year the French gambist André Maugars heard them during his visit to Rome and wrote that \"three fine voices and three different instruments so took my senses by surprise ... I forgot my mortality and thought I was already among the angels\".
A team of musicologists, literary scholars and performers from Melbourne University and La Trobe University and the Australian Research Council, under the direction of John Stinson and John Griffiths, have collaborated to research and interpret works by principal composers and from the central collections of the fourteenth century. The musical sources of France and Italy in the age of Machaut, Petrarch and Boccaccio include some 1500 works, most of which have never been available on recordings.
In September 1536, Costanzo Festa asked his patron Filippo Strozzi to intercede on his behalf with a Venetian publisher, hoping that the publisher would print Festa's large collection of variations on a cantus firmus taken from the popular basse danse known variously as ''La basse danse de Spayn,'' ''Tenore del re di Spagna,'' or, simply, ''La Spagna.'' Although Festa never did succeed in publishing his collection (and the composition was lost from view for the remainder of the century), a manuscript version was kept in a musuem in Bologna; the seventeenth-century composer Lodovico Zacconi was familiar with the pieces and spoke very highly of Festa's achievement. As well he might: Festa's collection consists of no fewer than 125 variations on the basic thirty-seven-note theme, all of them displaying a remarkable level of melodic invention and contrapuntal elegance. Indeed, this is a work on a scale unprecedented during his period--its like would not be attempted again until Johann Sebastian Bach's Goldberg Variations, to which the ''La Spagna'' variations have been favorably compared. For this premiere recording, Paul Van Nevel selected thirty-two pieces from the collection, alternating his instrumental settings between the ''whole consort'' (ensembles consisting of identical instrumental timbres) and ''broken consort'' (ensembles of mixed timbres) approaches in order to provide textural variety. The playing is very fine and the recording exceptional. One wishes that a recording of the complete collection of variations were available; while it might be a bit overwhelming as a single listening experience, the value of such a recording to music scholarship would be significant.
Mr. Casadesus comes from a musically illustrious family. His uncle was the first director of the famous Fontainebleau music school, founded by the late Nadia Boulanger. His cousin was the renowned pianist Robert Casadesus. His grandfather Henri was a composer, a collector of early instruments, and a viola d'amore soloist when such an instrument was barely known (the earlier years of the 20th century). The Casadesus collection of early instruments has its own exhibition room in Symphony Hall in Boston. 076b4e4f54