Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Italian Virtuosi of the Renaissance

There's an art to putting a release together, especially one for a solo instrument. With only one instrumental timbre, the tracks can blend together into an uninteresting blur. But change up styles too much, and the album can sound disjointed.

Lutenist Jakob Lindberg is a past master of program sequencing, and his latest album Italian Lute Virtuosi of the Renaissance strikes a perfect balance between consistency and variety.

Lindberg focusses on three composers, Francesco da Milano, Marco dall'Aquila, and Alberto Mantova. All three were lutenists and wrote challenging and idiomatic works for the instrument. Consistency is present in the overall style of the works.

The variety comes in the presentation. Lindberg organized these 24 short works into seven suites, each one with music by a single composer. By doing so, it's easier to hear the differences between these three composers.

Marco dall'Aquila is the eldest of the three, and his music is as thickly polyphonic as the choral works of the day. Francesco da Milano, thirteen years younger, favors short melodic motifs that are easy to follow as he develops them throughout the pieces.

Alberto Mantova, twenty years dall'Aquila's junior, writes fantasias, an exclusively instrumental form that seems to carry da Milano's motivic development a step further while moving further away from the choral-heavy traditions of dall'Aquila.

Lindberg's performances are impeccable as always. The album was beautifully recorded in a small stone church in Sweden, with an intimate acoustic ideally suited to the lute. Lindberg's thoughtful programming makes this an intriguing listen from start to finish.

Italian Lute Virtuosi of the Renaissance
Francesco da Milano, Alberto da Mantova, Marco dall'Aquila
Jakob Lindberg, lute

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