Insieme Vocale e strumentale "L'Homme Arme" with Fabio Lombardo
##2-7 Il carnasciale e la Lauds
##8-10 La celebrazione Religiosa
##11-15 Musica a Corte
#16 In Mortem Laurentii
========= from the cover ==========
There can be few more representative figures of the Italian Renaissance than Lorenzo de' Medici (1449-1492). Statesman and diplomat, patron of the arts, himself a poet of no insignificant ability, Lorenzo was at the centre of Florentine cultural, intellectual and political life at a period when the city engaged the talents of some of the most illustrious writers and artists of the time: Marsilio Ficino, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Angelo Poliziano, Luigi Pulci, Sandro Botticelli, Luca Signorelli and Andrea del Verrocchio.
Like other members of his family before and after him, Lorenzo also derived extraordinary pleasure from music and played a critical role in Florentine musical life.
No less than in other Italian humanist circles and centres of musical patronage, the practice of extemporaneous solo singing to the lute or viol was central to the musical experience of fifteenth-century Florence, and Lorenzo himself was a violist-singer, as is clear from the correspondence of such members of his entourage as Ficino, Baccio Martelli and Luigi Pulci. Moreover, some of the most important representatives of the practice where his intimates: Johannes Cordier, Antonio di Guido, one of the famous cantimpanca of San Martino, and Baccio Ugolini, a member of Lorenzo's Chancery who played the title role in the performance of Poliziano's Orfeo in Mantua in 1480.
Indeed, music making seems to have figured prominently among the activities of Lorenzo's circle, to judge from the many references in contemporary correspondence, particularly when Lorenzo and members of his entourage were at one of the several Medici villas located in the countryside surrounding Florence.
Lorenzo, in addition, involved himself in the musical patronage of the Florentine public institutions _ principally the Cathedral and Baptistery _ as we learn from the remark of Raphaelis Brandolini's to the effect that Lorenzo, "in emulation (of King Ferdinand of Naples)..., with the purpose that nothing should be superior to the dignity and adornment of his country.... embellished the temple of San Giovanni (the Baptistery of Florence) most beautifully with the very sweetest concert of voices".
Professor Frank D'Accone, in his fundamental study of the musical establishments at the Cathedral and Baptistery during the fifteenth century (Journal of the American Musicological Society, XIV, 1961), from which the remark of Brandolini's was taken, published a number of documents that demonstrate unequivocally the important influence the Medici exercised over the composition of the musical chapels of those institutions. The family appears, moreover, to have retained some members of the chapels at the Cathedral and Baptistery for their private musical "estabilishment", although the evidence is not extensive.
Our objective in selecting the repertory recorded here was to illustrate various aspects of the musical life of Laurentian Florence:
(1) The city's public festival life, as typified by the celebrations at carnival time and on the first of May that occasioned the performance of pieces known generically as canti carnascialeschi (carnival songs), although the term is best reserved for those pieces intended specifically to be performed at carnival; and the popular spiritual life of the city that occasioned the singing of laude, sacred but non-liturgical pieces, that are here grouped with the canti carnascialeschi for historical reasons: often laude texts were underlaid to music originally composed for canti carnascialeschi and, indeed, it is often only through reference to a corresponding lauda that one can reconstruct the music for a particular carnival song.
(2) The city's formal religious life, as expressed in the public institutions' ritual services and their musical embellishment.
(3) The private musical life of the Medici household (we use the term "court" somewhat reluctantly, for the reason that, in Lorenzo's time, Florence was still constitutionally a republic, although there can be no question that the Medici were much like an aristocratic family, at least with respect to their patronage of the arts).
The selection of pieces is framed by three works that properly lie outside the formal chronological limits suggested by the title of the recording; but that Dufay's music was known to Lorenzo is clear from a famous letter of Antonio Squarcialupi's, and we felt it appropriate to conclude with Heinrich Isaac's famous setting of Poliziano's funeral elegy for Lorenzo and with one of Isaac's canti carnascialeschi that may date from after Lorenzo's death but that demonstrates nonetheless the continued vitality of a genre that Lorenzo himself did so much to popularize.
We begin with Guillaume Dufay's motet Salve flos Tuscae gentis in praise of the city of Florence. Dufay had certainly been in Florence at one point in his career and composed a motet for the dedication of the Cathedral; in his letter to Dufay, Squarcialupi wrote that "...Lorenzo regards you with admiration. Because of the excellence of his divine talent, (Lorenzo) enjoys quality in all the arts, and thus delights exceedingly in the greater refinement of your music. And for that reason he admires your art and respects you as a father...".
We continue with a selection of laude and canti carnascialeschi, some of which demonstrate the formal and historical relationships that exist between the two genres: the same music serves as the setting for the lauda O malign o e duro core, whose text is attributed to Lorenzo himself, and the Canto de' Profumieri; similarly, Lorenzo's lauda text Quant'e grande la bellezza employs the same musical setting as the Trionfo di Bacco.
Also included are the pieces Iamo alla caccia, perhaps sung in the Sacra rappresentazione di Santa Margherita, which, although it probably dates from Lorenzo's time, typifies another of the musical genres characteristic of Lauren-tian Florence, and the lauda O Jesu dolce, attributed to 'Baldassar', who may have been the late fifteenth-century papal singer Johannes Balthazar, known to have been in communication with Piero di Lorenzo de' Medici and probably identical with the famous chanson composer Nino le Petit.
Some sense of the context in which performances of laude figured is conveyed by a sixteenth-century reference that specifies that "schools of artisans, among which there is that of Orsanmichele and of Santa Maria Novella... meet in church, and there they sing in four parts five or six laude or ballate composed by Lorenzo de' Medici and others...".
There follow motets _ paraliturgical sacred works _ by two composers closely identified with the "Florentine musical life of the late quattrocento and early cinquecento: Alessandro Coppini and Heinrich Isaac.
Coppini (ca. 1465-1527) was a member of the musical establishments at several of the city's public institutions and, to judge from early-sixteenth century letters written on his behalf, was a Medici intimate.
Isaac (ca. 1450-1517) was clearly the city's leading musical figure throughout the late-fifteenth and early-sixteenth centuries and, like Coppini, was described as a servant of the House of Medici; indeed, Lorenzo was said to have arranged for Isaac's marriage to a Florentine woman.
Although his Rogamus te dates from after Lorenzo's death _ a letter of 1502 demonstrates unequivocally that it was composed in that year _ it exemplifies compositional practices refined during Isaac's years as a member of Lorenzo's circle; his Prophetarum maxime is for the feast of San Giovanni, the patron saint of Florence, and it employs in combination a text drawn from the liturgy for the feast and a freely-composed, non-liturgical text.
Finally, we include five secular, polyphonic works _ three on Italian text and two textles _ that may represent some of the types of works that may have been performed in Palazzo Medici.
Their composers _ Giliardi, Pintello, Rubinet, and again Isaac _ are all documented as present in late fifteenth-century Florence and are represented in Florentine music manuscripts of the late-fifteenth and early-sixteenth centuries. If their works were indeed performed in Palazzo Medici (and the fact that pieces by Giliardi and Rubinet are preserved in the Medici manuscript Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Cappella Giulia XIII.27, copied for "I1 Magni-fico"'s youngest son Giuliano, suggests that they may well have been, as does the fact that Pintello's Questo mostrarsi adirata is a setting of one of Lorenzo's canzoni a ballo), they serve as evidence that despite the city's formal political status, by the end of the fifteenth-century "aristocratization" of this merchantile family (to use J. R. Hale's words) was rapidly nearing completion.
-Anthony M. Cummings