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GRAMOPHONE ( 10/ 2019)
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Reviewer: William Yeoman

Suggestion trumps explicitness. Think Fragonard’s L’escarpolette or Herrick’s ‘A sweet disorder in the dress / Kindles in clothes a wantonness’. And isn’t the lute the instrument of suggestion par excellence?

 Lukas Henning’s lively booklet and video essays (musicamemo.com) set the scene for his recital of music by the enigmatic Italian lutenist-composer Marco Dall’Aquila (c1480-after 1538). They touch on Pietro Aretino’s erotic poetry and Marcantonio Raimondi’s pornographic prints in I modi; Pietro Areno’s theories on the affects and musical modes; and La tempesta, the mysterious masterpiece of Dall’Aquila’s lute student, the painter Giorgione.

Henning organises Dall’Aquila’s ricercares, dances, etc, as well as compositions from his own pen, into four suites of six. The ricercar – a precursor to the fantasia – is central, and kinship with Montaigne’s later conception of the essay is not far-fetched. But where Dall’Aquila accumulates ideas within schemas, Henning begins from a generous mythology, showering an abundance of ideas as he moves.

For example, the robustness of the opening ricercar – of the piece’s Phrygian mode, Henning quotes Areno as saying it ‘fires up the spirits and kindles anger’ – contrasts sharply with Henning’s composition La Santa Anna, inspired by Leonardo’s painting. This not through any primitive demonstrability; rather, through subtle shifts in tempo, in tonal shading, in agogics.

The contrasts between the later Hypodorian and Hypolydian ricercares, with their respectively major and minor implications, are even more refined. The two magnificent performances with which the recital ends – of the Fantasia de Maestro Marcho da Laquila (sic) and Dall’Aquila’s arrangement of Janequin’s La battaglia – seal the deal.

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