Cappella Pratensis & Joshua Rifkin

Vivat Leo! Music for a Medici Pope

Format: SACD hybrid
Label: Challenge Classics
UPC: 0608917236620
Catnr: CC 72366
Release date: 29 October 2010
1 SACD hybrid
Challenge Classics
Catalogue number
CC 72366
Release date
29 October 2010

"These are excellent interpretations, the sound of cappella catches with transparency, in spite of the tight compositions for eight voices."


About the album

Godiamo ci il Papato, poichè Dio ci l’ha dato. ‘Let us enjoy the papacy, since God has given it to us’ – thus, according to a contemporary report, Giovanni de’ Medici, the second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, on becoming pope in March 1513. Enjoy it he did. In the eight years of his reign, Leo X, as Giovanni now became known, lived extravagantly, holding banquet after banquet, hunt after hunt, and sometimes parading a white elephant through Rome. His costly enthusiasms extracted their price, of course; within two years of taking the throne, he had turned a handsome surplus left him by his predecessor into a deficit, and before long he had to raise funds by such dubious tricks as selling indulgences on a grand scale – provoking what would eventually become the Reformation. Yet Leo did not exhaust the papal treasury on frivolous things alone. A man of extensive humanistic learning, he supported notable scholars and poets, including Pietro Bembo; commissioned major works from Raphael; and initiated significant building projects. Above all, Leo loved music. He knew it from the inside, possessing sufficient technical knowledge to compose in five voices. He staffed the papal choir – the body responsible for music at liturgical services – with some of the most eminent singers and composers of his day, and he maintained a private body of musicians that similarly included several highly prized singers, composers, and instrumentalists.

Much of the music heard at Leo’s court has vanished. We don’t know what his lutenists performed, nor can we retrieve the improvisations of his wind players. But we have an impressive record of the sophisticated polyphony sung around him: several manuscripts and printed books produced at his court or in its immediate orbit preserve works of both his own composers and others favoured by him and his musicians. A particularly vivid image of Leo’s musical world comes from the so-called Medici Codex, a collection of 53 motets possibly meant at first for Leo’s private use but ultimately presented to his nephew Lorenzo de’ Medici, Duke of Urbino, as Lorenzo returned with his new bride, the French princess Madeleine de la Tour d’Au-vergne, to Italy in the late summer of 1518. With the exception of the first and last pieces, all the music on this recording comes from the Medici Codex. (source: linernotes written by Joshua Rifkin)
Muziek voor Paus Leo X
Voor de opname 'Vivat Leo! Music for a Medici Pope' heeft het koor Cappella Pratensis samengewerkt met de Amerikaanse befaamde dirigent, pianist, klavecinist en musicoloog Joshua Rifkin. Met als resultaat een geanimeerde en weloverwogen uitvoering van muziek uit de tijd van Giovanni de'Medici, indertijd aangesteld als Paus Leo X. Het is een authentieke uitvoering, vooral ook door het diepgaand onderzoek van Rifkin en het ensemble.
'De acht zangers en hun artistiek leider zijn uitstekend op elkaar afgestemd. Het is heerlijk om de verschillende stemmen te kunnen volgen en horen hoe ze in de andere overgaan of andere stemmen ondersteunen of leiden.' Ludwig van Mechelen november 2010.

Muziek speelde een grote rol in de tijd van paus Leo X (1513-521). Deze genotzuchtige paus spaarde kosten nog moeite en nam de beste zangers, componisten en instrumentalisten in dienst. Hij liet de pauselijke kapel graag en veel voor zich zingen. Om zijn lievelingsmuziek te bewaren liet paus Leo X de Medici Codex maken. Een van de mooiste overgebleven muziekverzamelingen ooit. De bundel bevat 53 zangstukken van grote componisten uit die tijd.
Met uitzondering van twee stukken, komt alle muziek op het album 'Vivat Leo! uit de Medici Codex.

Viel von der Musik, die am Hofe von Giovanni de' Medici (zum Papst gewählt im März 1513 als Leo X.) gespielt wurde, ist heute verloren. Ein besonders lebhaftes Bild von Leos musikalischer Welt findet sich aber im sogenannten Codex Medici, einer Sammlung von 53 Motetten. Mit Ausnahme des ersten und letzten Stücks stammt die Musik auf dieser CD aus dem Codex Medici. Seit mehr als 20 Jahren geht Cappella Pratensis einen eigenen Weg und testet die Grenzen einer historischen Aufführungspraxis aus, diesmal in Partnerschaft mit Joshua Rifkin, der die Musik der vorliegenden CD bestens kennt. Für die erste CD bei CHALLENGE CLASSICS erhielt Capella Pratensis mit Obrechts 'Missa di Sancto Donatiano (FL 72414) im Februar 2010 einen DIAPASON d'Or.


The Dutch-based vocal ensemble Cappella Pratensis – literally ‘Cappella des prés’ – 
champions the music of Josquin Desprez 
and the polyphonists of the 15th and 16th centuries. The group combines historically informed performance practice with inventive programmes and original interpretations based on scholarly research and artistic insight. As in Josquin’s time, the members of Cappella Pratensis perform from a central music stand, singing from the original men-sural notation scored in a large choirbook. This approach, together with attention to 
the linguistic origin of the compositions and the modal system on which it is based, offers a unique perspective on the repertoire. Founded in 1987, the ensemble’s approach was largely established by its first conductor, Rebecca Stewart. Cappella Pratensis is now under the artistic direction of singer and conductor Stratton Bull, who succeeds other previous leaders Bart Demuyt and Peter Van Heyghen.

Besides regular appearances at concert 
venues in the Netherlands and Belgium, Cappella Pratensis has performed at leading international festivals in Utrecht, York, Regensburg, Antwerp, Ghent, Brussels, Knechtsteden and Bre�ice. Tours have taken the group to the United States (including a week in residence at Harvard University), Canada and Japan. Cappella Pratensis has also made a series of CD recordings that have met with critical acclaim and distinctions from the press (including the Diapason d’Or and the Prix Choc). From 2005 to 2007, the group was ensemble-in-residence at the Fondation Royaumont (France), where it gave courses, presented concerts and worked with distinguished musicians. In 2008 Cappella Pratensis premiered a complete polyphonic mass (Missa Unitatis) by the award-winning British composer Antony Pitts. In 2009 the ensemble released a DVD/CD production around the Missa de Sancto Donatiano by Jacob Obrecht, which included a reconstruction of the first performance of the mass, filmed on location in Bruges together with substantial documentary material. This production was crowned with a Diapason découverte and the highest rating from Classica magazine (Fineline Classical FL72414).

Cappella Pratensis also passes on insights into vocal polyphony and performance from original notation – both among professionals and amateurs – through masterclasses, multi-media presentations, collaboration with institutions, an annual summer course and training young singers within the group itself.

Joshua Rifkin’s work as conductor, pianist, and harpsichordist has spanned music from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries. His recordings and concert performances with the Bach Ensemble, which he founded in 1978, set an internationally recognized mark for historically informed and musically vital interpretation of their namesake composer. He has received acclaim in many countries for performances with modern orchestras of Strauss, Stravinsky, and more recent composers; has directed ‘period’ ensembles in works of Monteverdi, Schütz, Haydn, and many others; and has led operatic productions in Switzerland and Germany. In 1999 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Dortmund for his contributions to Bach interpretation.
Joshua Rifkin has also published widely as a scholar, most notably in the fields of Renaissance and Baroque music. He has held guest seminars, workshops, and master classes at universities and conservatories throughout Europe, the U. S., and Japan, and holds a position as Professor of Music and Fellow of the University Professors Program at Boston University. His collaboration with Cappella Pratensis returns him for the first time in many years as a performer to Renaissance polyphony.


These are excellent interpretations, the sound of cappella catches with transparency, in spite of the tight compositions for eight voices.

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