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Reviews: Ortiz: Recercadas del Tratado de Glosas, Rome 1553 - Savall

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Reviews: 1

Review by Joseph Ponessa October 10, 2013 (9 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Diego Ortiz was a Toledan musician in the service of the Spanish Viceroy of Naples, and on the 10th of December in 1553 he published in Rome his seminal work, the Tratado de Glosas, a manual for instrumental players in the emerging Renaissance style. Ortiz punctuated his treatise with musical examples, illustrating for the first time a number of musical innovations that would come to define Renaissance and make possible Baroque music. The music is especially valuable for showing the application of kinds of polyphony that had characterized sung music to the interplay of instruments. In 1565 Ortiz released his second and final publication, the Liber Primus, a collection of polyphonic sung texts. Apart from these two books, virtually nothing is known about the man.
At the time this work was published, Spain was dominant throughout Europe and the Americas, being connected both to the Hapsburg Empire and to England through marriage. As the pages of the Tratado were coming off the presses in Rome, Count Egmont was conveying from Prince Philip of Spain a formal offer for the hand of his cousin Queen Mary I of England. Courtiers accompanied Philip to the royal marriage, including musicians who certainly knew this important publication by a prominent musician in Spanish royal circles. Thus the Tratado, while very Spanish, had a vast influence on the evolution of music throughout Europe and England.
Jordi Savall recorded the ricercadas from the Tratado de Glosas twice, the first time in 1970 for Hispavox (could this have been the world premiere recording?), and the second time in 1989 for Astrée (Audivis). The second recording is the one that has just appeared in SACD from Aliavox. I acquired the original CD shortly after its release in 1990, and it has been one of my favorite recordings of early music. So I was happy when the SACD release was announced, and sat down with enthusiasm to compare the two releases. First I played the CD and noted its qualities, and then I played the SACD. I can report that the clarity of detail is greatly enhanced, and that the internal polyphony of the instruments, which is a principal feature of this music, is made wonderfully more clear. The contributions of the excellent harpist Andrew Lawrence-King, while still subtle, are much easier to distinguish now. The CD was a vehicle to display the viola da gamba, but the SACD displays the ensemble as Ortiz wrote it. This is the finest transfer that I have heard in the Aliavox SACD series.
The original liner notes from the CD release are reprinted in larger, more readable type-face, along with added photographs of the original publication. A class act, as always for AliaVox. I hold my breath for the eventual release of Luis de Milan's Il Maestro and of Juan del Enzina's Romances & Villancicos, other recordings in this same series. And, say--how about the CANTIGAS DE SANTA MARIA, the earliest published collection of folk melodies (as apart from liturgical music). In 1993 Savall made a recording of those that was very fine. How about it, somebody? Pretty please?

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