Everyday Music in Renaissance Italy

“La Fornarina” Raphael (1483-1520)

“La Fornarina” Raphael (1483-1520)

Life in the bustling cities of Renaissance Italy must have been an intense experience, full of constantly changing sights, sounds and odors: dancing, singing, street fairs, processions, and huge civic celebrations for important events.  People of all classes were thrown together, and daily contact between the nobility and the common man was the norm.  Not surprisingly, during this intense period of cultural exchange, very different levels of society often had surprisingly similar tastes in music.  Home-grown Italian forms – Giustiniane, or frottole or improvised sung poetry – were considered equal to if not better than the intricate compositions of great Northern masters such as Josquin des Pres. And indeed, it’s easy to understand the mass appeal of the native repertoire: soaring melodies, sonorous harmonies, universal themes like unrequited love or the great exploits of legendary heroes, and dances that still swing after 500 years.  These forms “trickled up” during the Renaissance, when the music of the common people had great influence on that of the nobles and rich merchants.  Later, they would “trickle down,” so that, incredibly, you can still hear tales from Greek mythology and selections from the 16th century “Orlando Furioso” sung in Central Italy today, lovingly preserved by the tenant farmers, masons, school teachers, carpenters and postal workers who perform them in a style that hovers magically between singing and speaking: a precious glimpse into how this music might have been performed long ago.

Dolando Bernardini, 1920 - 2006

Dolando Bernardini, 1920 – 2006

7 Performers: Gloria Moretti, Anna Pia Capurso: voice; Avery Gosfield: recorders, pipe and tabor, Marco Ferrari: recorders, double flute, dulcian, Francis Biggi: cetra, colascione, lute, viola da mano, Massimiliano Dragoni: percussion, hammer dulcimer, Elisabetta Benfenati: Renaissance guitar (Oleguer Aymami Busque, viola da gamba).

The Lucidarium ensemble is a pleasure to hear. Their sensitive and subtle colors …and sparkling virtuosity animate the music in refreshing ways. Their two female singers express the texts by turns with delicacy, sadness, bravura, and beauty.

Catherine Moore, American Record Guide

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5 novembre 2014 Programs

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Lucidarium is an irresistibly fun group, a light-hearted collection of friends out to relish each other’s company by making music together. That unbuttoned ethos is a welcome intrusion in the concert hall, one that will hopefully infect other performers.

Basler Zeitung

Next to their stylistic confidence and saddle-sure historical interpretation, Ensemble Lucidarium shows us just how contagiously vivacious the reconstruction of medieval sounds can be.


The six members of Lucidarium let their listeners dive into a completely enchanting world… The musical poetry of the Middle Ages was brought back to life in the most beautiful way possible

New York Times

… The Ensemble Lucidarium, an Italian group, in a program of vocal works (and a couple of high-energy saltarellos) on Wednesday afternoon, performed in a style free of vibrato and other forms of modern polish but plentifully adorned with florid vocal embellishments…

American Recorder Society Magazine

Anyone who arrived thinking of Medieval repertoire as “minor” or as music that ‘all sounds alike’ left with changed ideas.

The Arts Desk

There was a naturalness and relaxedness to their performance that was immensely pleasing.

Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace

… it was enough to be swept away, by the refinement and conviction of the performers, to a place where magic reigns.