How do you create sounds from Spain in the 15th-17th century? The instruments of the Bassanos originate from a time when people still listened more to their souls and less with the idea that the brain is the canter of their existence.
These widely drilled, slightly conical flutes with a flair at the bottom were built by the Bassano family, at first in their hometown Bassano near Venice and later from 1531 in England, until far into the 17th century. In 1568 the Spanish court bought a set of “flautas” from the Bassanos. Probably because at that time they were known as the best builders of these recorders and there were no workshops in Spain.
By making copies of the original Bassano recorders and searching for the perfect balance in every piece, we tried to bring this Spanish 15th, 16th and 17th century music back to life. The enormous sub-Contra bass of three meters is also based on one of the Bassano flutes. We used this flute in “Desde las torres del alma”. These deep sounds make you contemplate to climb the towers of your soul. As the contemporary writer Teresa de Avila beautifully described in her “Interior Castillio”, the path to your “inner castle”.
The Dream Recorders we play in the ‘Folias con 20 Differentias’ are based on the flutes of Schnitzer, a competitor of the Bassanos in Nuremberg. By using special techniques in the bore and some modern keys these recorders can be played with ‘modern’ (actually invented in the Baroque!) fingering.
The Eagle G alto, which can be heard on this albim in “Danza Alta”, is one of the archaic prototypes and is based on the search for sounds in wide bore flutes. From this recorder originates the loud modern Eagle F alto with an octave key and keys on the foot.
Total time: 00:57:23
Anonymous, Anonymous from Flores de Musica – Martin y Coll, Antonio de Cabezon, Bernardo Clavijo del Castillo, Christobal de Morales, Francisco Correa de Arauxo, Francisco de la Torre, Francisco Guerro, Hernando de Cabeon, Jose Jimenez, Juan Aranes, Juan Blas de Castro, Juan Cabanilles, Juan de Anchieta, Juan del Encina, Mateo Flecha, Pierre Sandrin
Sphinx by Merging
Sonodore, DPA, Neumann
|Original Recording Format|
Johannes Church Oosthem
|Recording Type & Bit Rate||
|Release Date||June 19, 2015|
Torres del Alma – Bassano Quartet
Spanish music from the 15th to 17th centuries is becoming better known in recent years, thanks to recordings of organ pieces by composers such as Jan de Anchieta, Jan del Alcina, Antonio Cabezón, Christobal de Morales, Francisco Guerro and Francisco Correa de Arauxo. There was, however, another field of music-making, that of the consort, a small group playing instruments of the same family. This was a more intimate and social form for domestic gatherings of Royal and aristocratic connoisseurs; in England, consorts of viols were preferred, while in Spain recorder consorts were favoured. In 1568 the Spanish Court bought a set of “flautos” from the famous Italian recorder makers, the Bassano family. It is from them that the ensemble playing on this disc take their name.
The repertoire of consort music for a quartet of recorders was mainly taken from four-part sets of organ or vocal music. The chosen “highlights” of this surprisingly abundant array of compositions has been arranged on this disc in three groups; extracts from the C15th MS ‘Cancionero Musical de Palacio’, music inspired by the writings of the mystic Theresa of Avila during the C16th, and pieces from the C17th.
The instrumentarium for these performances is described in some detail in the disc’s booklet. Recorder buffs will probably recognise the names of the various recorder species used, many of them hand-built replicas. Others are special types developed from old models by the renowned maker Adriana Berukink, such as “Dream Recorders” and “Eagles”. A special feature is the remarkable B flat sub contrabass based on a Bassano model – at 3m it is said to be the largest recorder in the world. The Quartet use combinations of various pitch ranges and recorder types for each piece, and when the sub contrabass comes in on four tracks, hairs on the back of the neck are raised, as its deep fundamentals resemble big organ pedals, to thrilling effect. This big recorder appears in an amusing photograph on the dics’s front cover.
The music itself ranges from lilting dances with chirpy bright leading trebles to richly-textured, brooding dark altos and basses intoning slower pavan-like dances or contemplative studies of St Theresa’s texts, where there is a wonderful sense of inner calm and poise. Such a constant variety of sound and mood makes this whole inspired programme a most pleasurable listening experience.
Performances by the Bassano Quartet are exemplary: rhythmically buoyant, crisply articulated and truly conversational part-playing. They mostly take the melodies ‘straight’ with only occasional discreet ornamentation, but the pieces involving “Differenzias” (running scales of progressively decreasing note values between successive melody notes) demonstrate their wonderfully crisp and nimble virtuosity. Differenzias equate to the “divisions” so beloved of the C16th and C17th English lutenists.
Sonically, this disc is a marvel, with the players realistically arrayed before the listener in a gently resonant but not reverberant church acoustic. Every detail of the richly harmonic instruments is captured, to make them convincingly appear in one’s listening room. This sonic magic is of the kind which justifies a listener’s spending of so much money in building up their hi-fi systems.
An enchanting and unusual disc, which makes me suspect that I already have a candidate for my Record of the Year. Please don’t miss this one.
Copyright © 2011 John Miller and SA-CD.net
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