Album of the day: Tragicomedia, "Sprezzatura"

Album of the day: Tragicomedia, “Sprezzatura”

Sprezzatura (Cd EMI 754312-2)

«…To perhaps say a new word, using a certain disdain in everything, which hides the art and shows what one does and says is done without effort and almost without thinking about it… the greatest disgrace to all things gives always the pestiferous affectation and, on the contrary, extreme grace, simplicity and disdain”.
These words, written by Baldassar Castiglione in the famous “Book of the Courtier” of 1528, clearly outline what Renaissance man meant by the term sprezzatura; apparent ease in words and actions, naturalness, detachment from passions and excesses, extreme clarity of thought which allows one to not get emotionally involved beyond a certain limit.

Even in the music of the time, the principle of sprezzatura was applied by many composers, including Caccini, Agazzari and Kapsberger, who often invited the performers of their music to avoid useless demonstrations of technical virtuosity (at the time a common practice among instrumentalists and singers of opera) to maintain a more appropriate and dignified attitude towards the scores, without denying the pleasure of improvisation and performance imagination.

This beautiful anthology edited by lutenist Stephen Stubbs offers us an anthology of compositions characterized by one
supreme elegance of writing. Pages by Caccini, Monteverdi, Gesualdo, Landi, Strozzi, Vivaldi and Händel, performed by the Ensemble Tragicomedia on viola da gamba (Erin Headley), double harp (Andrew Lawrence-King) and chitarrone (Stubbs) project us back in time to take us back to an era where musicians were not simply performers of written scores, but had to
intervene creatively by adding embellishments, flourishes, improvisations in what they played, something that our performers manage to do while admirably faithful to the title of the album through inventive and colorful variations, always attentive to philology but without scholastic aridity, indeed inclined to a great singing.

An extremely rarefied air hovers between these tracks, where the notes seem to detach themselves from profound silences, intertwining with them a continuous dialogue, often conducted in a low voice with airy lightness and avoiding violent dynamic excursions, in this aided by a perfect recording, attentive to every little detail.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.