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Delving into the Renaissance

The Trinity-St. Paul's Centre
11/22/2013 -  & November 23, 2013
Guglielmo Ebreo da Pesaro: Anello
Giovanni Lorenzo Boldano: Moresca
Giovanni Maria da Crema: Pass'e mezzo a la bolognesa
Bartolomeo Tromboncino: Tu dormi, io veglio a la tempesta e vento
Anon.: La Cara Cosa – Fuggi, fuggi, fuggi – Had Gadiya Other traditional pieces

Anna-Pia Capurso, Gloria Moretti (sopranos), Enrico Fink (narrator), Marco Ferrari (winds), Paul Kieffer (lute, colascione, mandora), Massimiliano Dragoni (dulcimer, percussion), Avery Gosfield (winds, co-director)
Ensemble Lucidarium, Francis Biggi (direction)

Ensemble Lucidarium (© The Toronto Consort)

Once each year as part of its season, the Toronto Consort invites a performing group with a specialty outside the central stream of early music repertoire. This year it was Ensemble Lucidarium with one of their programs exploring the intermingling of vernacular Jewish and Italian music during the Renaissance.

As co-director Avery Gosfield explained, this program is not so much a performance of a set of pieces but the assemblage of a soundscape. What could simply have been a few intriguing bits of this and that were united by spoken pieces from Jewish liturgy or folklore amiably delivered by Enrico Fink. Jews have lived in Italy since the days of the Roman republic; what we heard from the Renaissance era contained items in regional dialects (Gorizia, Venice, Florence, etc.) plus Hebrew, Yiddish (some Jews migrated from eastern/northern Europe) and even Aramaic (when did you ever hear something sung in Aramaic?)

We associate Jewish life in Italy in this era with the constrictions of the ghetto, but the emphasis in this program is on celebrations and playful, lighthearted song and dance. Music associated with the feast of Purim, observing the narrow escape from massacre of Jews in ancient Persia as recounted in the biblical Book of Esther, actually occupied just a small section of the program. The feasting itself seems to be the musical topic, as it is with a piece celebrating another deliverance, the Passover Haggadah.

Most of the pieces are traditional or anonymous. Three of the four credited to composers (only one of whom was Jewish)are lively dance pieces inserted in the program at the end of a song or group. Typically a song or narration begins unaccompanied, then one instrument joins, then more. The singing is minstrel-style (i.e., not bravura) and often an instrumentalist will be playing two instruments at once. Lucidarium have been working with this material for a number of years and there was a relaxed informality about the proceedings.

One piece of historical importance is Fuggi, fuggi, fuggi da questo cielo, also known as La Mantovana. The words urge winter to flee (“fuggi”) so we can enjoy spring. This tune became the basis for the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah.

For those interested in learning more, Lucidarium has recorded La Istoria de Purim on the specialist K617 record label (2009).

Michael Johnson



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