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GRAMOPHONE ( 10 / 2018)
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Reviewer: William Yeoman

Modern guitarists and listeners will be most familiar with the music of blind Apulian lutenist and composer Giacomo Gorzanis (c1530-c1575) through the arrangements of the 19th-century Italian musicologist Oscar Chilesotti and others. In more recent times, Gorzanis’s lute music has appeared in recitals by such modern masters of the lute as Jakob Lindberg. This extraordinary release is, however, perhaps the first to bring Gorzanis’s instrumental and vocal music so comprehensively to life. Colourful, imaginative arrangements for an ensemble comprising lutes, guitar, colascione, gamba, dulcimer and percussion of some of Gorzanis’s songs and dances are interspersed with lute solos and songs merely with lute or gamba accompaniment.

The ensemble is the Slovenian early music band La Lyra. The vocalist is the Puglian tenor and actor Pino De Vittorio. Overseeing proceedings as artistic director is the protean lutenist and guitarist Bor Zuljan. Together they not so much make music as smash the joint, such is the extrovert nature of the bulk of the songs, regardless of whether the singer is complaining about a deceptive procuress or bragging about the conquest of a ‘pink‑cheeked, rotund maid’.

The programme opens deceptively morosely, with ‘Da che si part’il sol’, a wretched lover’s lament. But things heat up pretty quickly, with scathing saltarellos and vituperative villanellas tumbling one after another like players in a commedia dell’arte farce. Though, to be fair, there are moments of stately reflection, such as the slow dance of ‘Chiara più che ’l chiar sol’ to drum and lutes, as well as graceful lute solos such as the Recercar secondo and Fantasia.

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