Friday, 6 January 2023

Io Amai Sempre - The Barber boy and the Galleon

Silvestro Ganassi dal Fontego.
He was born in Venice in 1492, his father was a barber from Borgano, no closer known, and strangely enough the family went on to produce a dozen musicians from all over Italy in the midst of the great haircut; perhaps there is something in common between the two?
We shall see.

All we know is that at the age of 24 he had the appointment of piffaro, which was handed to him personally by the Doge, which tells us that he was a trombone player.
Many of his works have become famous, but he is best known for his treatises, the Fontagara (1524) for wind players and the use of diminution, and the Regola Rubertina for viola players.

The background was a bit different, so it's hard to understand a lot of things from here. Courtiers were expected to have a very deep knowledge of music-making and the arts; this meant, in effect, a truly literate audience, even if the term courtier has now become corroded; and from the musicians, a discreet concealment of their knowledge, that is to say, they did not come out at once with their most virtuosic pieces, but, say, a more elaborate improvisation lured out those coolly handled but excellently performed runs, crowned by the subtle nod of the sovereign...

Before Ganassi, there was practically no such detailed treatise on the method of performance, and not much afterwards. It covers everything; a philosophical mini-essay on the relationship between words and sounds, a reverence for sound as a model suprema, a summary of the system of colours and sounds; the positioning and use of the fingers plus all the technical stuff there is to the playing style - while also giving instructions on imitating sensations, head movement and the use of blinking and eye-rolling.
For music, he suggested Josquin among his predecessors, and Willaert and the celebrated Nicolas among his contemporaries. The latter, because it was Nicolas Gombert, the most influential composer since Josquin, served his sentence on the galley for an unclear case of rape.

The label is ZigZag Territoires; the booklet is serious, the artwork is very special; just as much as the music inside.

Which is a masterpiece.
Ganassi's ricercars form the backbone; these are solo viola works; among them are works by Willaert, Gombert, Segni and Arcadelt, transcriptions of motets, fantasias and madrigals, orchestrated for viola, flute, lute, organ and harpsichord. Ganassi gave a separate chapter to diminution and improvisation which, despite a much more constrained system, perhaps gave the performer greater freedom than jazz would almost 400 years later.

What is a Ganassi ricercar like?
It's quite magical; just one race, almost everything you need to know about music woven into it. Listened to repeatedly, it produces increasingly complex things; its harmonic effect is quite extraordinary.

It is an insight into an extraordinary musical world. For this is not the "Remedies of the Renaissance Polyphony", nor a selection of profane dances, nor, on the contrary, a musical accompaniment to a festive mass. 

Other. A little deeper into the zeitgeist. The way people thought about the world back then. The keyboard players had not yet been reduced to a simple continuo tambourine major; the movement of their separate, full voices sometimes pulled us, the listeners, straight into a meditative direction.
A transcription of a Gombert motet:

It is purely spiritual and completely free music; uplifting, melodic and profound. A very subtle undulation of arcs; the wind playing is particularly soul-stirring.

The performers - Mariann Müller and Pierre Boragno on flute, Massimo Moscardo on lute, Francois Saint-Yves on keyboards - are a casual, assembled group, and they bring a melodiousness to the listener that is not common in such old music; perhaps that is why, despite the seriousness of the ideas, they are completely accessible. A Bach sonata or a Liszt piece can torture you far more with its incomprehensibility and strangeness than an average late-Baroque piece with its empty vacuity.

A perfect team in the Ganassi Saloon.

Because what is a good hairdressing salon?
Where we leave feeling refreshed. Where it was nice inside, we were looked after, and by professionals. But it's also good afterwards, for days.

Because, strangely enough, re-contouring our image, our outer frame, to look good again, gives us a kind of spiritual recharge. Because somehow things are more fully in sync, that is, while we were sitting in the chair, there was a realignment internally.

Exactly the way this record does.

And the bald-headed music fans? Or those with little hair anyway?

He should ask for a shave.
And the ladies?
They somehow always have enough hair, no matter how old they are, to sit for hours...

Any musical upbringing is worth coming here.

Highly recommended.

Thank you for the pictures