Ganassi: Io amai sempre

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COMPOSERS: Ganassi
LABELS: Zig Zag
WORKS: Io amai sempre: madrigals, motets, ricercars, toccatas and fantaisies by Ganassi, Willaert, Gombert, Ripa, Segni, Cavazzoni, Fogliano & Arcadelt
PERFORMER: Pierre Boragno (flute), Marianne Muller (viol), Massimo Moscardo (lute), François Saint-Yves (organ, harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: ZZT 081002

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The treatises of Silvestro Ganassi (d1557) unquestionably provide the most comprehensive information we have about the art of embellishment in 16th-century music. However, he left few compositions, so most of these pieces (17 out of 23) represent a kind of general homage to the art of ornamentation as applied to the works of other composers, with no direct connection to Ganassi at all.

There are delights and dangers in this. The delights include the spectacular performance of lute embellishments in Alberto da Ripa’s Fantasie, or the magical exchange of ornaments between lute and recorder in Gombert’s ‘Je suys trop jeunette’. Even the slightly stolid viol and keyboard playing have their moments of charm – the former in Willaert’s ‘Mon mary’, the latter in Cavazzoni’s ‘Falt d’argens’.

As for the dangers, the spun-out ornamentations mean that some works are curtailed here without notice (we only get half of Willaert’s ‘O Magnum Mysterium’), and the chosen instrumentations are sometimes bizarre (as with the tweeting recorder combined with murky low organ in Willaert’s ‘Lasso ch’i ardo’).

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And how much sense does it make to present so many vocal works (almost half the disc) on instruments, even if the result is a fairly pleasing soundscape? Anthony Pryer