Busnois, Ockeghem, Isaac, Agricola, Josquin Des Prez

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COMPOSERS: Agricola,Busnois,Isaac,Josquin Des Prez,Ockeghem
LABELS: Signum
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: A Songbook for Isabella
WORKS: Music from the circle of Isabella d’Este by Busnois, Ockeghem, Isaac, Agricola, Josquin des Prez,
PERFORMER: Clare Wilkinson (mezzo-soprano); Musica Antiqua of London/Philip Thorby
The richness of music-making at the Court of Isabella d’Este has become almost legendary, so it is something of a surprise that much still remains to be discovered and commercially recorded. The Songbook of this disc’s title was compiled in 1502, either in Ferrara or Mantua, and it includes lyrical songs from the Burgundian tradition, works by Flemish composers working in Italy, among them Josquin and Isaac, and numerous anonymous sacred and secular works. It offers an appealing selection of music and a fascinating overview of a particular moment in musical history.


In order to explore the repertoire of this period further, Musica Antiqua of London commissioned a set of late 15th-century viole – recreations (necessarily, since none have survived the centuries) of the ambiguous viol-like instrument which Isabella played. The matched set has a perfect internal balance and its delicate sound – lighter and more pellucid than the later viol consort – makes the ideal accompaniment for the voice.


The group is more than well-served by Clare Wilkinson – a highly sensitive exponent of this repertoire, and clearly at ease with the style. Her voice is pliant and subtly expressive, her diction excellent. All in all, then, a fine example of the collaboration of scholarship and performance practice. Kate Bolton