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Ciconia: Opera Omnia (Complete Works) Box set, Double CD


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Product details

  • Conductor: None
  • Composer: Ciconia
  • Audio CD (19 Sept. 2011)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Box set, Double CD
  • Label: Ricercar
  • ASIN: B0053SQSNM
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 162,092 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. O Felix Templum Jubila - Diabolus In Musica
2. O Padua, Sidus Preclarum - Diabolus In Musica
3. Venice, Mundi Splendor - Diabolus In Musica
4. O Virum Omnimoda - Diabolus In Musica
5. Albane, Misse Celitus - Diabolus In Musica
6. Doctorum Principem - Diabolus In Musica
7. Petrum Marcello Venetum - Diabolus In Musica
8. Ut Per Te Omnes - Diabolus In Musica
9. Beatum Incendium - Diabolus In Musica
10. O Petre, Christi Discipule - Diabolus In Musica
11. Caçando Un Giorno - La Morra
12. I Cani Sono Fuora - La Morra
13. Una Panthera in Compania Di Marte - La Morra
14. Con Lagreme Bagnandome - La Morra
15. Dolce Fortuna - La Morra
16. La Fiamma Del to Amor - La Morra
17. Chi Nel Servir Antico - La Morra
18. Ligiadra Donna - La Morra
19. O Rosa Bella - La Morra
20. Mercé, O Morte - La Morra
See all 26 tracks on this disc

Product Description

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By weisskopf on 19 July 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I bought this set after hearing I
La Morra in concert, which was a sublime experience which the CD allows me to relive. I confess that I had not heard of Ciconia before the concert but feel that his relative obscurity perhaps prevents more people from listening to this spare minimalist music. After the concert I heard some 16th Century music and was struck by its dense complex texture-almost Romantic! The playing of La Morra is superb. A record made to be enjoyed!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sid Nuncius HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on 27 Jun. 2013
Format: Audio CD
I think this is an excellent set - and far better than I thought it might be, to be honest. I hadn't heard of either of the ensembles here and Ciconia's music, from the turn of the 14th and 15th Centuries can be a little bleak if not done well. It is done very well indeed in this set and the result is a rewarding and beautiful recording.

The whole of Ciconia's known output is recorded here. Most of CD 1 is his secular songs and instrumental works. These are performed by La Morra, a small ensemble of mixed voices and instruments. They "experiment" with combinations throughout the works and it succeeds extremely well. The variety is a delight and the musicianship and singing are all excellent so that these pieces really come to life in a way I have not heard before. The sacred works, largely motets and single mass movements, are sung just as well by Diabolus in Musica, with instrumental accompaniment in some pieces from organetto or sackbut. Again, the performances are truly excellent and bring the music vividly to life in a way I had not heard before. The acoustic is beautifully resonant but never smudges the sound, and the recording captures it perfectly.

I am delighted to have discovered this set. A whole disc of very early polyphony is still a bit much for me all at once, I must admit, but taken a few at a time these pieces are a revelation and an immense pleasure. The notes are very full and generally interesting (although I could have done with a page or two less about how we don't really know who Ciconia was), there are full texts and translations and the presentation is very attractive. I warmly recommend this set even to those who find polyphony before about 1450 slightly hard going - like me, you might find this a very pleasurable surprise.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Angelos Vryonis on 26 Dec. 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Having owned and loved the old EMI-Electrola LP I jumped at the opportunity of getting reacquainted with this subtle and delicate music. I was rewarded on all levels. Excellent performances, backed with interesting background information and all recorded and presented perfectly.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Finally, all of Johannes Ciconia in superlative modern rendition 11 Oct. 2011
By Y.P. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Johannes Ciconia (c.1370-1412) was one of the Flemish composers flooding the Italian courts and the Church during the transitional period from late Middle Ages to early Renaissance.(*) Active in Venice and Padua at the beginning of the 15th century, he was undoubtedly the most important composer of this transitional period and played a considerable role in the musical development that led to the Renaissance.

There was at least one other complete recording of Johannes Ciconia's complete works: Ciconia: Oeuvre intégrale by Huelgas Ensemble directed by Paul Van Nevel (Pavane 7345/7), first released in 1982 in 3 CDs. This edition utilizes the latest musicological findings: Some works previously attributed to Ciconia have been discredited during the ensuing 3 decades and were not included in this modern edition, released by the label Ricercar.

In the accompanying booklet Jerome Lejeune, founder of the label Ricercar, recounts his childhood experience listening to his parents, historian and musicologist specializing in this historical period, discussed Ciconia and van Eyck on their long working desk for as long as their professional careers. This recording project has been high on his agenda since 1985, but was only brought to the fruition 25 years later.

Fortunately, it's worth the wait as the performance is magnificent! It has been carried out by two remarkable ensembles: La Morra directed by Michal Gondko for the secular music (CD 1), and Diabolus In Musica directed by Antoine Guerber for the sacred works and the motets (CD 2). The performance can hardly be bettered, especially in CD2. I took my perennial favorite Ciconia by Ensemble Project Ars Nova Homage To Johannes Ciconia (1370-1412) to compare, and noticed the obvious "paradigm shift" in the performance practice. For example, the motet O Virum Omnimoda/O Lux et Decus/O Beate Nicholaë was performed in a higher register with instrumental tenor in Ensemble PAN's rendition, while Diabolus in Musica records it a cappella at a lower register. Of course, instruments *are* used (sparingly) in Diabolus' recording, and not all pieces are performed at a uniformly low register. However, the generational difference is quite clear.

This collection is very nicely packaged. 2 CDs in paper sleeves and a thick booklet (~100 pages) with very informative (multi-lingual) articles are housed in a beautifully decorated sturdy box. All sung texts are included with translations. The recorded sound is clear and lift-like. There is nothing not to like. Get it while it is still available, my friends!

Highest recommendation.

-----------------------
(*) The "modern American" system puts the dividing line of Medieval and Renaissance at circa 1400 (e.g. Norton Introduction to Music History series.) The various "old British/Continental" systems which are still very much in use put the divider as far as 80 years later. There are pros and cons in each, but here is an observation: musicologists of the younger generations mostly speak in the American tongue....
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Sophistication is Forever! Or is it? 14 Nov. 2011
By Giordano Bruno - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
The music of Johannes Ciconia (c. 1370-1412) was the apex of sophistication in his time, composed for an audience of discriminating connoisseurs, employing compositional techniques behind the experience and capability of any but the most proficient musicians. Ciconia's moment in history coincided with the "Babylonian Captivity", the schism in the Catholic Church that saw two Popes, one in Rome and one in Avignon. Ciconia himself was probably aligned with the Roman faction; he spent most of his career in Rome and in Padua. His music, on the other hand, was ineluctably styled to the esoteric and ultra-sophisticated taste of the Papal Court in Avignon. Ciconia was a Fleming, born in Liege; he was certainly a pathfinder for the great migration of Flemish composers to Italy in the 15th Century, and he was distinctively an 'internationalist' in music, blending the French styles of the Ars Nova and Ars Subtilior with the Italian forms that had reached their climax of development in Florence, as preserved in the superb Squarcialupi Codex. It appears, from what little we know of his life, that Ciconia was more highly regarded in France than in the Italy where he spent his career.

Ciconia's most unique and sophisticated music was chiefly secular -- that is, non-liturgical, though it might contain religious expressions -- as perhaps befit a worldly man, the illegitimate son of a priest, employed by the Church. The texts of his songs -- madrigali, ballate, etc., all in intricate stanzaic Italian or French or both -- are often either political/civic or romantic/chivalric. Like the music, these texts are steeped in artifice. Sophisticated at times beyond any easy emotional response. Ciconia was not a 'polyphonist'. That statement may surprise many devotees of the polyphony of composers from Dufay to De Lassus, so I'll need to explain my distinction. Ciconia's compositional vocabulary was in fact 'conservative', evolved from late Medieval musical practices of embellished monody. The term 'heterophony' fits it better than 'polyphony'. You'll hear what I mean most clearly in the performance of Ciconia's 'musique profane' by the ensemble La Morra (CD 1), in which quite diverse instruments -- plucked strings, bowed strings, winds, and a keyboard clavicembalum -- embellish and 'comment upon' the sung texts, which by themselves are obviously subtle expansions of the Medieval organum, a form of harmonized monody. Obviously the seeds of the later polyphonic structures are there in Ciconia's musical structures, and most plainly evident in his mass movements and motets, performed by the singers of Diabolus in Musica with some 'substitution' of trombones for voices (CD 2). The typical ensemble of Medieval secular music "open", using mixed, dissimilar instruments of different families, while the preferred ensemble of the Renaissance would be "closed", all similar voices that is, all singers or all bowed strings or all winds of the same family. Ciconia's musical career happened at precisely the moment of one of the great paradigmatic shifts in European musical history, when the structures, the instruments, and even the tuning systems of Medieval music were supplanted in one long lifetime by new structures, rapidly modifying instruments, new tunings, and a new international system of notation.

And so it was that Ciconia's "sophistication" became quickly unappreciable and eventually incomprehensible. Quite simply, just a hundred years after his death, Ciconia's music would have seemed barbaric and unperformable to his heirs. Five hundred years later, at the beginning of the 20th C, it was little more than archival dust. Even when "Early Music" was rediscovered and painfully resuscitated in the latter decades of the 20th C, the music of Ciconia and other "Subtle Art" composers seemed stiff and formulaic to most musicologists. Primitive. Prefatory to the genius of the Renaissance. Anything but "sophisticated"! Yes, with diligent drudgery, the notation had been deciphered, from the few manuscripts that had survived, but the art of performing such music simply hadn't ben recovered.

The first recording of Ciconia that sounded plausible, that expressed the sophistication of his style, was made in 1992 by the ensemble Project Ars Nova, with singers Laurie Monahan, Michael Collver, and John Fleagle, plus lutenist Crawford Young and vielle-player Shira Kammen. The CD has been re-released, and it still sounds plausible ... glorious, in fact. It was a product of serious scholarship, virtuosic musicianship, and a lot of musical intuition. How can we claim to know, at this remove, what Ciconia music sounded like? That's the intuition part: if it sounds 'right', if its sophistication is evident, then it probably is 'right' ... or as close to right as we can imagine. PAN's Ciconia sounded Right!

But that CD remained unique and unmatched until this new "Opera Omnia" recording by two European ensembles. Opera omnia? Yup, the complete extant works of Ciconia can be delivered on two CDs.
The first CD includes all of Ciconia's non-liturgical music, 17 chansons in various verse forms, with three of them performed instrumentally. Most of these pieces were also performed on the older PAN CD; though there are different choices of voicing and instrumentation, La Morra follows and extends the performance insights of PAN quite loyally. I have a certain loyalty to PAN also; its members were all close friends of mine. But I grudgingly have to say that La Morra has surpassed PAN in polish and flamboyance; they make the music sound even more sophisticated. "On the shoulders of giants ..." as Occam said.

To be honest, Ciconia's secular music is more appealing than most of his liturgical music. Likewise, to my ears anyway, La Morra's half of this Opera Omnia is the more exciting CD. But I don't mean to spurn the artistry of Diabolus in Musica. The group sings superbly here. There are eight singers in the ensemble, but the performances are (and always should be) one on a part. Some of the pieces are performed on an organetto, an instrument no bigger than a small desk, and on some pieces trombones (saqueboutes) substitute for voices in an appropriately vocal manner of playing. There are difficult issues about assigning voices in Ciconia's music. There are untexted lines, and lines to which no text can easily be fit. There are thorny questions of the sorts of instruments that existed, that were suitable, and that were permissible in liturgical contexts. Eventually, it all comes back to intuition, to making the music sound Right, and Diabolus In Musica achieves that standard. In my self-appointed role as caviller-in-chief, I have to express some doubt that the trombone had developed beyond the single-slide "slide trumpet" precisely by Ciconia's time, but I can't deny that it's effective as used in this performance.

This is a splendid pair of CDs, a culmination of the Early Music movement, resonant proof of the worthiness of Ciconia's music to be heard as something more than a baby step toward Bach and Beethoven. Ciconia lives!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A revelation 27 Jun. 2013
By Sid Nuncius - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I think this is an excellent set - and far better than I thought it might be, to be honest. I hadn't heard of either of the ensembles here and Ciconia's music, from the turn of the 14th and 15th Centuries can be a little bleak if not done well. It is done very well indeed in this set and the result is a rewarding and beautiful recording.

The whole of Ciconia's known output is recorded here. Most of CD 1 is his secular songs and instrumental works. These are performed by La Morra, a small ensemble of mixed voices and instruments. They "experiment" with combinations throughout the works and it succeeds extremely well. The variety is a delight and the musicianship and singing are all excellent so that these pieces really come to life in a way I have not heard before. The sacred works, largely motets and single mass movements, are sung just as well by Diabolus in Musica, with instrumental accompaniment in some pieces from organetto or sackbut. Again, the performances are truly excellent and bring the music vividly to life in a way I had not heard before. The acoustic is beautifully resonant but never smudges the sound, and the recording captures it perfectly.

I am delighted to have discovered this set. A whole disc of very early polyphony is still a bit much for me all at once, I must admit, but taken a few at a time these pieces are a revelation and an immense pleasure. The notes are very full and generally interesting (although I could have done with a page or two less about how we don't really know who Ciconia was), there are full texts and translations and the presentation is very attractive. I warmly recommend this set even to those who find polyphony before about 1450 slightly hard going - like me, you might find this a very pleasurable surprise.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Master of the Ars Subtilior era 13 Mar. 2013
By Michael Burcke - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is a wonderfully performed and interpreted set of works by Ciconia. Totally unlike what most people think of as renaissance music, with an ethereal quality that is nicely portrayed by the performers. Music of this complexity really didn't show up again until the early 20th century...very enjoyable, very unusual.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The best case for Ciconia 4 Jun. 2013
By Charles Baker - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Late 14th century music is an acquired taste, and many recordings of Ciconia's work sound 'stilted', 'difficult', 'strange' to modern ears. Part is the extreme virtuosity Ciconia demanded of his musicians, part is the idiom is strange to our "post-romantic" classically trained ears. But these recordings show little of that : the performances sound convincing, fresh, and affective. One may prefer a different soprano in gothic music: I normally do (the Margaret Philpot comes to mind)...but this record present the genius of Ciconia perhaps better than any other recording I know of. Just listen to their "Una Pantera" or "Le Ray Au Soleyl" : they sound not "interesting" and " complicated" , but beautiful! - ravishing! A wonderful peak in high Gothic music, performed with understanding and love by talented musicians.
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