Fire and Ice


Signum Records is pleased to present the first of a series of three discs by Music Antiqua of London, featuring the music of three Italian cities.

In the late 15th century, Italy was divided between the independence of the mighty Venetian Republic and tiny Dukedoms such as Ferrara and Mantua. Music and literature were patronised by the ruling classes as statements of power and local identity. However the most revered European composers were from the north, and their musical style owed little to Italian culture.

In northern Italy an educated classicist, Isabella Marchioness of Mantua, devised the frottola where text was set to a simple melody following speech rhythms, and accompanied by 2 or 3 instruments. The frottola is a Cinderella of Renaissance song and has suffered in comparison with the English and Italian Madrigal and the French Chanson in the 2oth century revival of interest in Renaissance music.

On Fire and Ice we present frottole taken from a Venetian manuscript, compiled around 1520, to argue the case for a re-evaluation of this repertoire. The collection is notable for the quality of both the poetry and the music. The texts deal frequently with emotional extremes – the “fire and ice” of our title!

Modelled on the court bands of the 16th century, Musica Antiqua is the only group in Great Britain to play on specially commissioned matched sets of viols and recorders, copied from 16th century originals. This CD offers a rare opportunity to hear the very different sound these instruments make compared to their "modern" counterparts from the 17th and 18th centuries.


What people are saying

"these performances…. communicate an infectious sense of enjoyment and enthusiasm (and) make thoroughly satisfying listening."

Daily Telegraph 12 October 2002


"the instrumental pieces are beautiful and are played excellently"

Kirk McElhearn, Seen and Heard


"there are many imaginative touches, and interpretative subtlety in abundance"

Fabrice Fitch, Early Music

Musica Antiqua
directed by Philip Thorby

with Clare Wilkinson, Mezzo-Soprano

Release date:1st Sep 2002
Order code:SIGCD035
Barcode: 635212003527

Daily Telegraph – 12 Oct 2002

This week’s discs celebrate the music and musicians of Venice. Not so long ago, when the rehabilitation of Vivaldi’s instrumental music was still in its earlier stages, he was sometimes dismissed as having written not 600 concertos, but the same concerto 600 times.

Such a view would probably command little assent today, but if final proof of its injustice is still needed, it is triumphantly provided by a new recording of L’estro armonico from the group L’arte dell’arco, directed by Christopher Hogwood.


Fire and Ice, Musica Antiqua of London’s collection of Venetian love songs from much earlier in the 16th century, is a livelier affair. All the pieces are in a straightforward strophic form. While some are light-hearted, even risque, others set texts as anguished as any chosen by later madrigalists. Some of the composers are anonymous, but even those who are not – such as Bartolomeo Tromboncino and Marco Cara – are hardly household names. But their music is most attractive, and in these performances, which communicate an infectious sense of enjoyment and enthusiasm, makes thoroughly satisfying listening. Philip Thorby’s imaginatively planned programme begins with a sequence of short pieces evoking high jinks early on a spring morning, before turning to more serious matters of love and loss. Half the items are excellently sung by the mezzo-soprano Clare Wilkinson, whose words are crystal-clear throughout, and accompanied by renaissance guitar or ensembles of strings or recorders. The rest are crisply played in instrumental arrangements of the day.

Elizabeth Roche

‘… played with subtle flexibility.’


Early Music Review

  1. Bussa la porta [villotta ? 3]: anon – – [0:28]
  2. Su, su, leva [frottola ? 4]: Bartolomeo Tromboncino (c.1470-1535) – – [1:57]
  3. Era di maggio [villotta ? 3]: anon – – [0:19]
  4. La via de la fiumera [frottola ? 4]: anon – – [1:31]
  5. Il marchese o di Saluzio [villotta ? 3]: anon – – [0:18]
  6. El marchese di Saluzzo [saltarello ? 4]: anon – – [1:27]
  7. Donde ne vienstu bella [villotta ? 4]: anon – – [0:24]
  8. La gatta (basse danse ? 4): Pierre Attaingnant (c.1494-1551/2) – – [1:02]
  9. Nel tempo che riveste il verde manto [frottola ? 4]: Ioannes Lulinus Venetus (fl. early 16th c.) – – [3:39]
  10. Vostro son, n? d?altra mai [frottola ? 4]: anon – – [1:58]
  11. O vaghe luci [frottola ? 4]: anon – – [4:35]
  12. Recercar secondo (lute solo): Vicenzo Capirola (1477 – after 1548) – – [2:38]
  13. O miei ciecha e dura sorte (lute solo): Marco Cara (c.1470 – ?1525) / Capirola – – [2:15]
  14. Che farala (lute solo): Bartolomeo Tromboncino / Capirola – – [1:15]
  15. Amor, da che convien [frottola ? 4]: anon – – [4:10]
  16. La morte de la ragion [pavana ? 4]: anon – – [2:01]
  17. Dura passion [frottola ? 4]: anon – – [2:19]
  18. O dolce farfarela [frottola ? 4]: anon – – [1:02]
  19. Mentre io vo per questi boschi [frottola ? 4]: Marco Cara – – [3:37]
  20. Pavana alla ferrarese (lute solo): Joan Ambrosio Dalza (fl. 1508) – – [0:51]
  21. Saltarello (lute solo): Joan Ambrosio Dalza – – [0:53]
  22. Piva (lute solo): Joan Ambrosio Dalza – – [0:49]
  23. Tanto mi trovo [frottola ? 4]: anon – – [3:14]
  24. Aspicias utinam [frottola ? 4]: Bartolomeo Tromboncino – – [5:48]
  25. Perch? son tutto foco [frottola ? 4]: Marco Cara – – [3:40]
  26. Fiamma amorosa e bella [frottola ? 4]: Cara? / Tromboncino? – – [2:54]
  27. Nel foco tremo [frottola ? 4]: Bartolomeo Tromboncino – – [2:39]