Notes 60.1 (2003) 254-258
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Music from the Odhecaton: Celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the First Printed Music. Piffaro. Dorian xCD-90301, 2002. Piffaro. Dorian xCD-90301, 2002.
It would be difficult to overstate the impact of the decision, taken by the Signoria of Venice in 1498, to grant music publisher Ottaviano Petrucci a monopoly in the publishing of polyphonic music. Working in collaboration with the Dominican friar Petrus Castellanus, who acted as editor and compiler, Petrucci produced a volume entitled Harmonice Musices Odhecaton A, which contained ninety-six polyphonic works (mostly chansons) by a variety of popular composers, including Alexander Agricola, Antoine Busnoys, and Jacob Obrecht. It remains a landmark in the history of printed music, and selected contents have been recorded in a variety of configurations, recently and notably in a fine 2002 collection by Fretwork (Harmonia Mundi HMU 907291). While Petrucci would go on to publish many other musical collections, it was this one that would have the greatest impact. This album features twenty-nine selections from the Odhecaton, all of them played by the Renaissance wind band Piffaro. Consistent with the common practice of his day, Petrucci did not bother prescribing instrumentation; it was understood that the pieces could be played by any combination of melody instruments. Thus, Fretwork's arrangements of the pieces for viol consort are every bit as "historical" as these settings for shawm, sackbut, recorder, cornetto, and even bagpipes (along with the rarely recorded dolzaina and a shifting complement of accompanying stringed instruments). Those who love early wind music will likely see Piffaro's name and need no further convincing; this ensemble is one of the finest Renaissance wind bands in existence, and it plays this repertoire with energy and exceptional ensemble sense, not to mention a thoroughly appropriate sense of fun—the bagpipes on Adam Gilbert's arrangements of Pierre de la Rue's "Tant que nostre argent dure" and Jean Mouton's "James James James" are a particularly startling yet effective touch. Those libraries that do not yet own recordings of pieces from the Odhecaton should be especially quick to pick this one up, and those who own the Fretwork recording will likely find this one to be a useful complement.
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. Missa Dum Complerentur. Veni Sancte Spiritus. Other Music for Whitsuntide. Westminster Cathedral Choir/Martin Baker. Hyperion CDA67353, 2003.
Apart from the Tallis Scholars—which is, of course, a very different sort of ensemble —there is probably no choir in the world performing the works of Palestrina as beautifully as that of Westminster Cathedral. The group's consistency is remarkable; despite a constantly shifting complement of boys' voices and the replacement, in 2000, of Master of Music James O'Donnell by Martin Baker (formerly an organist and Master of the Choristers at Westminster Abbey), the choir's warm, creamy ensemble sound remains instantly recognizable and is one of the most attractive on record. It remains particularly well suited to Palestrina's lush and cascading vocal writing. The centerpiece of the choir's latest Palestrina program is a gorgeous and yet infrequently recorded parody Mass based on the motet Dum Complerentur. Also included are five assorted liturgical pieces with similar Whitsuntide/Pentecost themes, as well as a Magnificat setting. As usual, the choir opens with the motet itself before performing the Mass, an approach that is especially [End Page 254] effective in this case given the composer's particularly clear exposition of the source melody at the beginning of each section of the service. The sound quality is fine; a bit more presence would have made it easier to hear and enjoy the remarkable part writing, but the rich ambience of the cathedral offers its own sonic pleasures. Very highly recommended to any collection of Renaissance vocal music.
Johann Sebastian Bach. Complete Harpsichord Concertos. Kenneth Gilbert; Lars Ulrik Mortensen; Nicholas Kraemer; Trevor Pinnock; English Concert/Pinnock. Archiv 289 471 754-2, 2002.
Handel, George Frideric. Complete Organ Concertos. Simon Preston; Ursula Holliger; English Concert/ Trevor Pinnock. Archiv 289 469 358-2, 2002.
In 2002, the Deutsche Grammophon label began an aggressive...